Good lord, what have I done? (Joined community orchestra.)

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [DB]' started by Ed S, Aug 3, 2022.

  1. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    There are a group of amateur orchestras in our area. Last night, we went to a concert of the middle group. The group was not terribly impressive, nor was the single bassist. (But the 2 guest soloists were pretty amazing!) My wife approached the conductor (who she knew from before), and he invited us to join the even LOWER orchestra! So we're gonna give it a shot. Looks like they have 2 bassists.

    I figure my mission is to make them remove from their website the language saying "All strings are welcome, especially double bass"! :D

    I printed off the music, and suffice it to say, I'm confident I will bring the "pathetic" to Tchaikovsky's 6th. ;) Darn, that's a long piece!

    Wonder if THIS will be enough to encourage me to finally take and stick with some lessons? ;) Should I bring my hybrid and bow, or just slap away on my ply?
  2. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Lucky you! Here in Tulsa, there is one professional symphony and one 'community' symphony, the latter of which has four excellent bassists. I had a DB for a few years and wanted to join that one, but they were content with the size of their bass section, so I never even got an audition. Good luck in your new situation!
  3. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    There are several amateur orchestras here in STL.

    Although it may not be everyone's idea of fun, I enjoy playing in amateur orchestras ... I'm not good enough (yet?) to get paid for my high-school-level sightreading, sketchy intonation, and sloppy bowing. But it's gratifying to play successfully a concert with music I originally thought was way above me, to know that each season represents a quantum leap in abilities.

    It can be a little frustrating, especially when I expect other players to play better than me. I've found myself fighting the seemingly-inevitable tempo dragging, grimacing from hearing sour notes, and thinking that it doesn't matter what I play because I can't hear myself over the freaking tympani. Can't fire the drummer!

    Time to bone up on counting rests!:D
  4. mdcbass

    mdcbass Supporting Member

    Feb 6, 2005
    Seacoast of NH
    Personally, I prefer a piano bar.
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  5. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    From the single time I doubled with a cello in my ensemble, I really dug playing in tandem with another player. Being a part of a section is so different from how out there alone I often feel playing bluegrass. At the least, it is quite different from playing off a mando or someone else chopping.

    The guy who leads these orchestras really provides an amazing service. And several total pros - such as the CSO concertmaster and his family - are very active in participating.

    The group I'll be joining sounds very informal, with sight-reading sessions, and at times playing in retirement homes and such. Most of the players are seniors, so it meets on a weekday afternoon - meaning, I don't have to stay up late!

    The middle group plays concerts through the year. The 2 soloists yesterday were a Julliard cello student, and the other a new CSO violist.

    The top group plays operas.

    These are all totally amateur groups in the W. Chicago burbs.

    Man, if I'm working on all these different things, how come I still suck so bad?! :D
  6. I tempted to give this a try myself, but need to find one closer.

    I'm not driving over 30 miles just to not be very good. I can do mediocre in the comfort of my own home.
  7. Having a third bassist should markedly help the section's intonation and really add to everyone's enjoyment. Break a leg!
  8. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    I'm the principal in a local community orchestra. I also play in a couple of pro orch's but in some ways the amateur group can be more fun- less pressure with an easier schedule but still expectation of good playing. The problem for the last few years has been lack of bass players-currently only two. In past years there were some college-age students of mine who filled out the section and made it a teachable situation but not currently. I'm hoping there will be at least a couple of new players this season. We've had as many as six players in the past, which to me is the ideal number.
  9. Yup.

    The law of large numbers is at play. The more bassists you have, the greater likelihood that someone has proper intonation, and if you average everyone, on average the section will have great intonation. :D
  10. Oy vey! Especially slowly in an uncommon time signature for many, many measures!
    AGCurry likes this.
  11. Get more familiar with the pieces by listening to recordings of them with your bass part in front of you. You’ll have a better sense of when to come in. You still need to count carefully though as good composers can play rhythmic/metric tricks that can draw you in to entrances that are wrong. Watch the conductor and have fun!
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  12. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    Yeah - this is maybe a 20 minute drive - as well as something I can do w/ my wife. Win/Win!

    I've already identified a couple of spots where I will graciously defer to the others! ;) Sometimes when there are 2 bassists at a jam, I joke that one of us should take the 1s, and the other the 3s. :D

    Really good idea. Kinda like "The THINK Method"? ;) Happy it is a piece I know somewhat and enjoy. I'm pretty sure one - um - tendency of the conductor is to choose music that challenges (exceeds the abilities of?) his players. I've never worked with a conductor in ANY setting . Will be nice to see what he does other than wave his baton around! :D
    MonetBass likes this.
  13. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    After subbing with the symphony this last January, I was very tempted to take some classical lessons, audition and join the group properly. Alas, my other work picked up again, so now I no longer have time.
    It sure was good for me to jump in the deep end like that, though. I was woodshedding like never before for many weeks. My Jazz clients definitely noticed the improvement in my bowing.
    If you have the time, I think joining a community orchestra and taking more lessons is a terrific idea!
    AGCurry likes this.
  14. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    I suspect that many directors/conductors also intentionally choose music that is off the beaten path, and therefore likely (but not surely) to be less fun to hear and sometimes to play. A good approach, I would think, is to choose one well-loved "anchor" piece and a couple of lesser-known pieces.

    I respect greatly the skill of conductors, the work they must put in to know the music, and the work involved in communicating with players! Waving the baton is a tiny part of the job.
  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    When there are lots of changes between pizz and arco in a piece, I often think that a division of responsibilities could apply there, especially for us German-hold players.
  16. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    "But...honey...I....I...I need a new $30k carved bass for this orchestra gig..."
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  17. I mean, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that you need a $40k bass to really sound your best.

    You can't just show up with a pawn shop special and expected to be treated with the same level of respect as when you rock up with your new $50k bass.

    I understand that not everyone can splurge out for a $60k bass, but think of it as a business expense combined with an investment, and suddenly the $70k you spent seems entirely reasonable.

    At the end of the day, if your spouse doesn't understand the $80k you just spent on the bass, surely they will the first time they hear what a $90k bass sounds like as part of an ensemble.
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  18. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    You forget - she's gonna be playing fiddle - and might decide her $15k axe (considerable appreciation - she bought well from a young maker) needs upgrading! ;)

    Coming from golf, I see too many players who think spending a few thousand on clubs will cure their buck-fifty swing. I would be embarrassed to hack away on something much nicer than my 7/8 Upton hybrid. Am interested in hearing what sort of sound I can pull from it in larger rooms and compared to other basses. (Hopefully not TOO loud on the inevitable clunkers!)
  19. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    A bigger bass is not necessarily louder; it will *tend* to have a deeper timbre.

    And embarrassment? Most bassists I've met don't seem to care much about what bass they're using, much less about mine ... if they do, they keep it to themselves. I think most of us understand that everyone has the best instrument he/she can afford. Lord knows there are plenty of bassists who play rings around me on instruments that cost less than half as much.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2022
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  20. Bruce Calin

    Bruce Calin

    Oct 15, 2002
    In the community orchestra that I'm the principal in, I don't care if you show up with a large cardboard box with a bridge and strings if you can play it.:)
    AGCurry likes this.

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