Important message from the music director: preparing and rehearsing during COVID-19 Pandemic
Dear GVYO players, I want to share with you some of my experience about the “new normal” of rehearsing and preparing for rehearsal during the Covid-19 pandemic. Until now, the ‘normal’, or expected, way of playing in our orchestra was this: Get the music on the first rehearsal, starting working on it counting on these usual procedures:
1. The first rehearsal would be a fun sight-reading where we get to know how the music is going, what the tempo might be.
2. There will be many rehearsals and each rehearsal will be 3 hours long.
3. Most importantly!: We all are very much used to sitting next to each other, and ‘leaning’ on our stand-partner to know what to do in case we fail or get confused. We would blend our sound with them in order to hear if we were making small mistakes, and - most importantly - gain confidence and ability to play the music from the group energy of the people around us. I used to call it “the magic of orchestra”. Take the Smetana we did last February as a great example, with big forces playing the same lines, woodwinds and brass covering (sometime luckily) the difficult passages of the strings, our self-confidence is high and we are actually able to play better than we thought we could.
All of this has dramatically changed!
The rehearsal and chance to work together is only 1 hour per week.
We are much more ‘alone’ on the stage, 6 feet from each other, and we hear ourselves much louder than we hear the other players.
It is harder to play together, so we must look at the conductor much more for cues and tempos in order to stay together. This means that we cannot look at the music in front of us as much as we would like and we are called on to sharpen all our senses and antennae (ears and eyes) in order to stay and play together.
I know it’s hard!, but I am positive that with the right preparation, which is a bit different than the ‘norm’ I described earlier, we can - and will - succeed. Our first priority is for each one of us to know how to prepare in such a way that we gain total confidence in our own playing first - and then be able to “radiate it” around us. (It is in fact the total opposite to what I have described before about how we gain confidence from the people around us.)
Here are my suggestions on how to prepare:
Get to know the music as much as possible! Work on your part until you know it inside and out and plan to play it as if playing a concerto (meaning the rehearsals are actually performances and you are the soloist).
Find a score and recording(s) and listen with the score many times, so you know what other players are doing. Get to know their parts by looking at the score as much as you know yours playing it. Mark their ‘cues’ in your parts if necessary if you have hard time counting.
Practice with a metronome! That way you know your tendencies – are you slowing-down or speeding-up unnecessarily? That way you train your muscles and fingers to remember the tempos, and you will feel so much more comfortable.
Keep practising longer than you are used to, so that you get to the state that you almost know the music by heart and just need a reminder if looking down, so you can afford to take your eyes off the music and go back to it without the fear of losing your spot on the page.
Try looking at videos on YouTube and ask yourself questions like: what part of their bows, and arms, are the performers using? What kind of strokes? Are they on the strings, or off? If you can answer these questions, you are probably gaining great knowledge.
If you dare - use a microphone or your phone and record yourself. (And dare to listen to it as well!) That is the only way you can hear objectively and you will improve much faster.
Remember this phrase: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail...”
I know we can do this! In fact, I think the Covid-19 pandemic is giving us a great opportunity. I think that if we learn to do this and prepare well, our orchestra will improve so dramatically that it will have a lasting effect for years to come.
Wishing you all the best and looking forward to seeing you all on our first rehearsal! Yours, Yariv