Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This is where I want to be ...

This is a photo of Joshua Bell performing the Barber Violin Concerto, Op. 14 with the Minnesota Orchestra at the Barbican last February, shortly before I leapt across several audience members and ran backstage to the rumored green room door with Udita in hopes of getting a photo with him (I still feel a bit guilty about skipping out on the Beethoven - I'm sure it was great though).  Our stalking attempts were both successful, although we kind of had to push our way to the front with other JBell groupies (mostly young, attractive American women studying abroad in London with Coach bags dangling from their arms) eyeing us up and down. 

Over the two years I've lived in London, I've frequented Southbank and the Barbican for London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra concerts.  Every time the lights dimmed and the Concertmaster walked onstage to rapturous applause, however, I'd feel a tug at my heart - I missed playing with an orchestra so much.  This was especially apparent when the piece performed brought back memories: the Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances, for example, reminded me of being accepted and playing at All-State Orchestra in Yakima or Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherezade (which the LSO or LPO - can't remember which - butchered by the way.  Complete shame), which brought back fond memories of Saturday morning Tacoma Youth Symphony rehearsals. 

On our way to the Scheherzade evening, Udita and I shared her iPod and listened to almost every movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's masterpiece on the tube, conducting with our hands and attracting stares from other passengers.  Udita never failed to impress me: whether she was living in Spain or Boston, she always managed to find an orchestra or chamber group to practice and perform with.  I, on the other hand, struggled to find a good enough reason to bring my violin over from the US to the UK and was too shy to find an amateur symphony orchestra to join.  I was at once, both fearful and haughty - what if the orchestra was too good?  Or worse, what if it wasn't good enough?  But one night, as I was lying awake in my bed in London, unable to sleep, I tried to recall the names of each note on each string, starting from the G and working my way up to E.  I couldn't do it.  That's when I went into a cold sweat, sat up straight in bed and emailed my brother with this message:  "Remember when you asked me what you could get me for my birthday this year?  Do you think you could get me a new set of strings and/or possibly get my bow rehaired at Applebaum's in Tacoma?" 

A month later, I've found my perfect fit, the Royal Orchestral Society, which rehearses in St John's Wood every Monday.  Although I've only been to three rehearsals of the new season so far, I'm kind of in love.  The environment is friendly and non-competitive and the level of the players is, well, very good.  It's made up of ex-professional musicians, current music students at the Royal Academy and people like me, who've played seriously for many years but stopped for whatever reason and are looking to fit music back into their lives.  Another reason why I love them?  The entirely Russian programme planned for our spring concert (Tchaikovsky, Borodin, and Prokofiev).  Sold.  Not to mention the adorable tea-breaks we have halfway through, complete with Hobnobs and Rich Teas.  And since, you know, I have no friends, I thought it'd might be a good opportunity for me to meet some new people.

So if you're around St John's, Smith Square on March 21st, we're having our first concert of the year.  You can purchase your tickets and learn more information here.

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