From the Orchestra Library

Crunch Time

Posted in Uncategorized by kschnack on June 22, 2009

It’s crunch time.  In exactly one week the Dallas Symphony’s instrument and equipment truck will be on the road towards the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado, followed by the orchestra’s flight up 36 hours later.  We’ve done the festival for quite a few years so we know pretty much what to expect, but that doesn’t change the fact that the week before any tour — domestic or international — is a blur of activity.  From rehearsals and concerts with the music director, to final operational and logistical details being taken care of, to loading up the trunks (instruments, music, equipment, wardrobe), it’s hard work for everybody.

Of course, taking off on an international tour is much more complex than a domestic tour in almost every way that I can think of except this: the number and type of programs.  It may not be exactly the same for every US orchestra, but when we tour internationally we usually do a mixture of three programs or so, always with the music director, and mostly classical repertoire with the occasional American “light classical” or showpiece.  We are doing this for the Vail residency also, but in addition there are three pops concerts with two more conductors, and two of those programs have vocal soloists and have not yet been rehearsed.  Both average about 20 pieces with lots of issues:  cuts, inserts, special starts and stops, some instrumentation alterations, and the like.  Music for these have come from a myriad of sources and quality-control has been difficult.

Despite it being a residency, the theater in Vail doesn’t have library-type facilities or equipment backstage.  This means that pretty much whatever is going to be a problem we have to preempt and prepare before we leave.  It can cause a few sleepless nights and many hectic days tracking and checking absolutely all the details.  Even so, it’s impossible to prepare for every situation; something unforeseen will happen, it is the nature of things.  When it does, I’ll have to deal with it quickly because there will only be one rehearsal for each program.  As Roseanne Roseannadanna would say, “it’s always something.”

I imagine the Generation X, Y and Z-ers right about now are wondering who the heck that is.  Mentioning Gilda Radner’s character from the old Saturday Night Live days certainly puts me in a particular generation, but I do have a point to make that’s relevant so bear with me for a second.  Because I am of an age that was born when a mouse was a little rodent and “Twitter” and “Tweet” depicted the sounds of actual live birds, I learned the skills of an orchestra librarian the old-fashioned way……..with pencil and eraser.  I also learned that preparing parts properly takes time (okay, I didn’t say I was always patient about it).  Of course, my own generation has fully embraced technology and learned to apply it in our profession — I have a blog afterall! — but I am still much faster writing out a part by hand than on a computer.  And it looks damn fine too.

So this will stand me in good stead backstage in Vail, when I can’t run to my library computer, or my fabulous copier, and instead have to do any work needed quickly on the parts by hand.  Yes, I’ll have my laptop, and my thumb drive, and the hotel business center and Kinko’s, but when it comes down to it, I’ll most likely have only a few minutes to use a manuel tool that I’ve packed in the library trunk.  It’s kind of like hiking in the mountains in the “old days” without a cell phone.  When you knew help wouldn’t be available quickly and you might have to get down the mountain alone, you tended to prepare more in advance for potential emergencies and have a plan to get yourself out of trouble.  And that’s how I approach the music preparation for going on tour.  Like a good Girl Scout.  Be Prepared.


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