2023-11-10: remembering disaster and three great performances

going through some old journal archives and am reading/remembering a disastrous end of year concert in university; towards the end of my degree? one of the percussionists showed up completely drunk, and programmed some sort of whistling sound into the keyboard. played it like that all concert. our conductor rolled with it, but was clearly livid. after the concert, the percussionist laughed it off, was still drunk, didn't apologize to anybody. and it was at that point i decided i wasn't coming back, i'd join the less prestigious, no-audition ensemble next year, because at least everyone was there because they wanted to be, and they wouldn't break my heart. and i did that. and it was fine, the music was easier, and apart from getting to play in the same section as one of my old friends, i honestly remember very little about it.

As A. put it afterwards, "Well...at least we have the Kalinnikov?"

a. being someone i knew from high school, another player in the youth orchestra we'd both been part of. and in retrospect, wow he was right. that piece stood out then and it stands out now, the symphony we played nearly perfectly at a festival five years before.

looking back now: there are a few pieces of ensemble music that're still burned in my memory —

de meij - lord of the rings symphony - london symphony orchestra

a year or two before the disaster-concert, there was johan de meij's "lord of the rings" symphony for wind band. ambitious, difficult, beautiful, it's one of my favourite pieces. we pulled together, and we pulled it off.

back two more years. my first year of university, we played colin mcphee's "concerto for wind orchestra". mcphee was a canadian composer whose music was heavily influenced by balinese gamelan music, and this concerto feels like midwinter night driving on the highway with snow drifting dangerously and hypnotically.

kalinnikov - symphony no. 1

and then the year before that, the great kalinnikov, he who died sick and in obscurity, his first symphony in g minor my favourite of his two. we played it nearly flawlessly in a dark theatre somewhere near the st lawrence. we got a standing O, the outsiders, the anglo orchestra from out west. i'll never forget it. our conductor told us once how, after decades and decades, he was still searching for a perfect performance. i feel like, for me, our performance of this is the closest i'm ever going to get.