On Sunday at 4pm I was reminded again why playing chamber music is what I love the most.
Aside from its musical nimbleness—melody and accompaniment constantly changing hands—getting from rehearsal to performance with just a handful of players demands that each member of the group contribute to the process of creation.
Of course, operating with a leaderless team also has its drawbacks. There are times when I’ve desperately wished for the un-democratic efficiency of an orchestral conductor—but when everything works, there is really nothing like it. The ingredients for success? Experienced players, a definite goal, a clear deadline, a generous dose of humor.
This past weekend we had all of them. Despite a cold-snap that had us rehearsing in coats and hats, a harpsichord that needed to be moved down a mountain and up a flight of steps, and a way-too-tight rehearsal schedule, I inwardly marveled at how a performance takes shape. A pointed comment tightens up a ragged cadence. A quick discussion about a musical phrase gives the piece a distinctive shape. With each repetition, talking about things seems less and less necessary. We’re just communicating now through the music itself.
Before we know it, the first few audience members take their seats. The hall is warming up! Rehearsal is over. We’re ready.
Still… a bit of magic in the way it all comes together.