Playing triangle in Daphnis

Sunday, April 28, 2013

shapeimage_2-1What an amazing experience! I got to play triangle in the Princeton University Orchestra’s two performances of Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe. Years ago when I asked Michael if I could play percussion, he had said he wouldn’t trust me to be able to count 247 measures of rest from an instrumental part and then go “ding” in the right place. After all, I was used to singing the ongoing melody from a piano/vocal or full score. OK, I was offended, but I basically agreed. Since then, I have actually played percussion in various small things and not totally messed up. Daphnis, however, was another matter – long, hard, tricky. In the big climaxes there are 8 different percussion parts all whacking away. It is not possible to double up the parts, and Michael didn’t have 8 student percussionists. He needed me if I wanted to do it. Yay!
But, not being a regular at this sort of thing, I did a lot of preparation, and came to a lot of rehearsals. I also listened to a recording with a full score and made lots of annotations in my part. I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on so I could go “ding” in the right place! And what beautiful dings they were. The triangle part was actually quite extensive with long busy sections in 5/4 and 7/4 that had really tricky rhythms that I had to practice on my own. It also accompanied an extended flute solo, punctuated some exquisite soft moments, and joined in with an explosive trill at one of the biggest choral climaxes. And don’t forget about the end with all of us making a huge racket. It was a different kind of chamber music, coordinating with the other folks in the section. They included some students but also some grad students from Rutgers and a former PUO player, now a pro. It was really fun to get all our interlocking bangs and dings to align with everything else that was going on.

And what amazing sounds were going on! The chorus in the balcony poured waves of vocal “ah’s” down onto the creamy strings, mighty brass and velvety winds. The music surged and flowed from one orgasmic climax to another. It was such a treat to be able to see Michael from this perspective as he perfectly paced the progression of one build up after another, and the music carried us from delirium to ecstasy and back. Except, I couldn’t let myself get overwhelmedy by the emotion of the music as I usually do when I listen to PUO concerts. I had to keep my wits about me and count, an interesting exercise in concentration. Yet, it was fantastic to be a part of all this surging and crashing sound, and I’m sure this will be a concert long remembered by all those playing and listening. I always love performing with Michael, from the front of the orchestra or the back.

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