About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chamber Music!

I was inspired to start (or restart) this blog by several other horn players who have written about their returns to horn playing after years away from the horn. Among those are Tina Barkan at newhornist.com and the many folks at the Mid-Life Horn Player on Facebook. I hope I can be as interesting as you guys!

Last time I wrote about how my husband and I came to join our community band. Now that I’ve been in it a couple of years, I tell people that the best parts of being a member of this community band are meeting a lot of really terrific people and getting to play chamber music. Every year members of the band give an ensemble recital at a local library, so groups form specifically for this concert. Almost as soon as I joined the band I was asked to play in a brass quintet. I love brass quintets – I like the music, I like playing with other brass players, and I like listening to brass quintets. I happily joined and soon my husband was also in the quintet. We began working on the Ewald Quintet. Then I was asked to join the band’s woodwind quintet. I said no, explaining that I really preferred brass quintets and that the other horn players should also have a chance to play chamber music. The clarinet player/organizer persisted, telling me that none of the other horn players either had the time or was interested in playing chamber music. So I said yes, and we began working on the Hindemith woodwind quintet. Before I knew it, I was also playing in a Haydn octet.

This was a lot of playing for me. Suddenly my weekends and evenings were filling up with rehearsals. I also had to practice more, both to learn the music and to build up enough strength to make it through the concert! Each piece presented its own challenges, but the Haydn gave me particular difficulties. One movement had a long horn solo that hung around high A. Since grad school I have been mostly a low horn player, and I hadn't been practicing seriously for years, so I needed to do some chop building. I was very lucky though, I think, because the return to horn playing for me was pretty straightforward. Many aspects of horn playing came back with practice. Some things had changed -- my break in registers was higher than it had ever been, so that has taken some adapting. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, the things I had trouble with in the past, still gave me trouble. I had always struggled with intonation, and I still did. (More on intonation in a later post.) The high register is harder for me than the low. I still can't really double tongue and trills are still hard.

So, that first chamber music recital was fun. Not perfect. I was happy to see that I was not the slightest bit nervous. (More on nerves in a later post!)

The woodwind quintet I had somewhat reluctantly joined is an permanent group that plays throughout the year. We are currently working on the Serenade for Woodwind Quintet by Ferenc Farkas for this year's ensemble recital. We will also be playing at our clarinetist's daughter's wedding in October!

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