Mother’s Day weekend I had the immense pleasure of playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. The concert had been announced over a year in advance. In theory I had plenty of time to work up to it. But I had a busy year and other concerts to work on. Suddenly it was April and the BIG ONE was almost upon us. The whole prospect was overwhelming.
In fact we all wondered if Linus were crazy. It wouldn’t be the first time we had wondered this. But as usual, we had to trust in him and in ourselves that we were up to the challenge. The result—a weekend of wonderful, memorable playing. We didn’t play every note right. I left out some notes on purpose. So did many of the other violin players. I suspect the viola and cello and bass players may have been guilty of the same strategies. There were multiple passage that were lightning fast, too fast for me to read the notes, too fast for me handle, too fast for me to practice.
But with Beethoven’s 9th, you can get away with a few missed notes because there are a gazillion of them anyway. So despite guilt over this measure or that measure, I could sit at the edge of my seat—it was important to keep focused—and enjoy.
And there was much to revel in. We had a fifty-member chorus, for one thing, friends from the community and a few from within the orchestra who had been recruited for the performance and who had happily donated their time. We had our conductor, Linus Lerner. We had soloists from Mexico, sweet young singers who had won acclaim the summer before at an opera festival in Oaxaca: Gabriel Navarro, Eloisa Molina, Jorge Jiménez, and Erika Coyote. They kept us entertained. They kept us enthralled. Two of them were fortunate enough to bring their parents along for all three performances. Talk about a fan club!
But the real pleasure came from within. It came from my stand partner, who confessed that he felt privileged for having the chance to play the 9th. By the end of the rehearsal, I had to agree. How many times had I listened to a recording of this symphony? How many times had I heard snips of it here and there? How many times had I heard parodies of the famous “Ode to Joy” from the last movement? But here it was, the whole symphony. And there I was playing it. During the last concert I was thinking: Wow, this is me, playing Beethoven’s 9th. I thought this especially during the tricky Second Movement. And then I lost my place and had to refocus all over again.
That was not a problem. I’d practiced enough that I could find my way back. As I did, I thanked David Rife, my violin teacher, for making it do-able. I thanked my fellow musicians, for we were a veritable troupe. I thanked the soloists, and Dorothy Vanek, and Linus Lerner, our fearless leader.
But most of all I thanked, in my heart, every single audience member who came up to me and said, Wow, that was terrific, or Wow, that was great, or Wow, I never heard that symphony live before.
It was a smashingly grand way to end the season. I’m awfully glad I was a part of it.
For a full photo album (including party photos!);