Sunday, March 04, 2012

Symphonic Metamorphosis, movement one

Pit view for "Nixon in China"
As I posted earlier, I am currently rehearsing with the Kansas City Symphony again.  Over the last few months, I've been called a few times to help them out.  The months-long experience has been nothing but positive.  The fellow instrumentalists think I look familiar and start to remember my name.  People I've only watched from afar now smile and nod, as if to say "hi, we're here to do the same thing". 

And that's so amazing I can barely speak.


A typical symphony run for me begins with a rehearsal.  The rehearsals are usually in the morning, so I'm incredibly lucky that my regular job allows me the time off to drive the 30 minutes to the city.  It helps that I work in a musical instrument shop, because we have customers involved with the symphony and I can often do double-duty to ferry completed repairs back or pending repairs down.

The rehearsals usually start around 10am, which is late enough for morning traffic to have thinned.  Barring the occasional road fire or accident, I can take the interstate almost directly from my front door to the stage door.  The first hurdle is finding a place to park.  The wonderful new Kauffman Arts Center is many things, but it is not a parking trifle.  The massive garage underneath is lovely, but expensive.  And while it is accessible at all times and climates, I'm not willing to give up a significant portion of my service income for a day just to have a roof.

There are time-limited spots on some of the surrounding streets, which I can time carefully to arrive in, warm-up, rehearse, and be gone before the meter maid stops in.  Evening concerts have never been a problem.  This is in part due to the Symphony reserving a lot nearby strictly for musician use.  It's also due to the fact that I always arrive REALLY early.  Like two hours, in some cases.  I tend to get excited and worry that I won't make it on time.  Makes it easy to get good parking, though!

To get to the artist entrance from most directions involves tackling the hill.  The good news is that the Center sits proudly on a hill near downtown, making it very visible from several directions.  The bad news is that it's a hill that must be climbed.  Being not of athletic persuasion, it takes me some serious effort to lug myself and 40 pounds of gear up the hundreds of feet from my parking spot to the door.  By about halfway, I usually switch into a lower gear and take small steps.  I start going really slowly, but no one has ever passed me.  Odd.

As I enter and make my way to the security desk, I've usually regained enough breath to say "FFFFFhhhh", which is the way I great them.  If this is the first rehearsal of a set, my guest musician pass has not been provided, so I sign the log book.  There's always confusion when I sign about whether I'm a "Contractor" or a "Visitor".  The nice guard smiles and says, "There's definitely a bit of overlap, in your case."  The surly guard says, "Nobody cares which book you sign."  I like the nice guard better.

Naughty or nice, they wave me through the security door.  Because of my gear, I don't usually take the stairs.  In the beginning, I avoided the stairs because I didn't know where I was going.  I still don't, but now I realize that I'm too wide to wander while carrying trombone and bag. 

The elevator will take me one of two places. Sometimes I go to floor 3, home of the satellite music library and backstage area of the concert hall (the east dome). This hall is features ensembles on stage, so the pops concerts and other orchestral features tend to be here.

The elevator can also take me to floor 1, the level for the orchestra pit.  The pit is at the foot of the "Theatre", which features a proper stage and proscenium arch.  My first performance with the Ballet was here, with the people above me dancing.  The current performance is here, too, with people above me singing. 

The pit is spacious by all my previous standards, though the brass tend to get squished back into the corner.  Part of the reason for this is because we need space in front of our bells -- a "demilitarized zone", if you will.  The other players give us this space, complete with acoustic shells between their heads and our bells to block out the more harmful "radiation". 

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I'll continue with further aspects of playing with the Symphony and adventures while I'm there.  My goal is to give you an understanding of what happens when I leave the standard day and enter the realm of the performing artist.

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