Leah Meyer, a horn player from Belmont, Massachusetts, writes about the opening days of NYO-USA. Follow Leah's experience on her personal blog, N(Y)O Way!.
Ethernet cables are a thing of the past, which is why I am only now able to tell you about the activities of the opening two days. To say it is a whirlwind is unfair - both to the hurricane that is eight hours of rehearsal a day, and to the parting of clouds and choir-heralded emerging sunshine that is the progress we've made already. Our first tutti (full orchestra, for my non-musician readers) rehearsal was last night, and we just got out of three more hours of work on the Shostakovich. That reminds me! Our repertoire is as follows: Shostakovich Symphony No. 10, Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Joshua Bell (who will arrive next week, as will Maestro Gergiev) and Magiya, a piece commissioned by Carnegie Hall and BBC Radio 3 (on which our Proms concert from Royal Albert Hall will be broadcast) for NYO-USA by Sean Shepard, who we will also meet and discuss the piece with later this week. Ahhh, the opening of the Shostakovich…the low strings, resonant, full and woody yet clean and clear...I think that DSCH is permanently engraved into my heart (and my ear drums). Shostakovich may have lost his identity, but he can tell you his name. (For those who don't know much Shostakovich, the motif "D-S-C-H" using German notation translates to the notes D-Eb-C-B, and stand for Dmitri Schostakovich. Mind blown? You're welcome!) The NYO-USA horn section with faculty member William VerMeulen, Principal Horn of the Houston Symphony. From left to right: Michelle Hembree, Markus Osterlund, Leah Meyer, William VerMeulen, Weston McCall, Caelen Stewart, and Nikolette LaBonte.
Orchestra Director James Ross is preparing us for Maestro Gergiev's arrival, and has dubbed himself our "surrogate daddy" for the next week. His extremely kind and friendly manner combined with deep experience and knowledge of the music make rehearsals engaging and outstandingly productive. I'd say that's what I've been most amazed by: not just the baseline level of playing, but the leaps and bounds everyone is ready and willing to take to bring ourselves together as an orchestra. Most of us have never experienced a conducting style like Maestro Gergiev's, and all the musical faculty have that in mind in preparing us; everything we do is looking forward. And not just to this tour, but for a future of playing music. Over the first 48 hours I've constantly had invaluable insight and knowledge just handed to me by the faculty and by my peers; it's impossible to walk into a rehearsal, whether sectional or tutti, and not be inspired. We spent yesterday afternoon in a brass sectional coached by the principal horn of the Houston Symphony, the Principal Trombone of the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Principal Trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Today, we played with them in tutti, along with all the other section coaches. They've taught us tricks and rules of the trade, of orchestral playing, and of our instruments, on top of helping us build our musicianship. I have to admit, with the thermostat stuck at 55 and a neighbor practicing the room above until 1:30, Sunday night didn't seem too promising. Still, clarinetist Madison Freed and I were up at six for our run, and saw enough baby bunnies and deer to wake me up from a night of Shosti 10 lullabies.
When I catch a moment, usually before bed, I've been chipping away at my reading list, which includes "The Icon and the Axe: An Interpretative History of Russian Culture" by James H. Billingham, a tome my dad suggested to me in preparation for the tour to Russia. Not only is it is a deep source of information and perspective, but it was written in 1966, so the maps and commentary provide a contemporary look at the USSR at that point. I'm also reading "The Remains of the Day" and then "The Unconsoled," two novels by Kazuo Ishiguro, whose works I'll be reading for my Senior Thesis.