Backstage at the Carnival Center-a View from the PitThe Carnival Center for the Performing Arts opens in Miami this weekend, an event decades in the making. From October 3 through October 7, South Florida Musicians Association Secretary-Treasurer and Florida Classical Orchestra oboist Jeffrey Apana writes about what it is like to be backstage during this history-making week.
October 3 (T-minus 2 days to opening)
We began rehearsals for the opening of the Carnival Center today, however this was not the first time we've played in the halls. The Florida Classical Orchestra played for the tuning of both the Knight Hall (prior to the arrival of the Cleveland Orchestra) and the Ziff Hall last month. Miami can be proud...these halls are like nothing else in Florida. There's a clarity and warmth of sound that we've never had before. I had an opportunity to walk around the Knight Hall while the rest of the orchestra was rehearsing, and you can pick out details from any seat in the house. Wow!
First rehearsals of the season are always challenging. We haven't really played together in over four months. Ball teams have pre-season activities before they start playing the games that really count for a reason. You can practice your instrument home alone, but you can't practice teamwork by yourself!
There actually IS a lot of work that goes on before we even get to our first paying service of the season. Playing an instrument is like being an athlete...imagine having to blow up balloons for three hours straight while holding five-pound weights. For the last two weeks, I've been playing etudes (think pre-season training workouts). Oboe players also make their own "mouthpieces," so I've made 30 reeds in the last few weeks to get ready for the season. Usually we have the music in advance so we can look over our parts and work out the hard sections before we even get to the first rehearsal (this time we don't, so the pressure is on to sound like we know what we're doing, even though some of us are playing music that we haven't even heard before).
All before I even officially show up for work.
Tonight's read-through of the second act of Puccini's La Boheme was challenging because we have to get used to playing in a new facility, where we can hear some things better (and perhaps some things worse) than we are used to. Do we need to play louder, or softer, or shorter and crisper, or longer and more lush? Am I in tune with the bass player that's thirty feet away?
We also have some new faces in the orchestra. One quarterback may be just as good as another, but when you switch quarterbacks it takes a little while to get used to their personal style. Playing Principal Trumpet is a stressful job (especially when we start playing different operas on alternating nights), so Peter Francis will be joined by Oscar Garcia Montoya...sometimes Peter will play Principal, and sometimes Oscar will. Also, Principal Clarinet Kelly Dolan has taken a leave of absence, so former Florida Philharmonic principal Richard Hancock will be joining us. There are also a few new faces as the orchestra is about a dozen players bigger than it normally is.
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