Musician’s Musing – January 2018

This month’s Musician’s Musings was written by BSO Principal Cellist and former Board President, Laurie Maiser.

 

The Major Leagues – A Fantasy Camp Experience

I’m a small-town Minnesota girl.  Born and raised in Austin, MN, it was a special event when we would have a school event to trek up to “The Cities” to see the Minnesota Orchestra.  As a student cellist, the MO was the brass ring – the incredible group of hometown professionals I daydreamed about being a part of someday.

But then 25 years passed, in which I switched from my Music major to Economics, worked in IT, married, and had kids.  The aspiration switched from performing at Orchestra Hall to just making time in a busy life to attend the concerts.  Then one day last spring I had three people send me the same email – the Minnesota Orchestra was hosting a Fantasy Camp

Fantasy Camp was a 2+ day event in July, culminating in a performance of Berloiz’s Roman Carnival Overture on stage in a side-by-side with the Minnesota Orchestra, under the direction of Osmo Vänskä.

I wrote about it a lot on social media, so when the BSO Board asked me to write a blog post about my experience and what I can bring from it back to BSO, I thought it would be easy.  No problem, I can do that in a week.  That was a couple of months ago.

Turns out, it was harder than I expected.

The experience was sublime, no doubt.  The performance flew by so quickly…. followed by rousing cheers and a standing ovation. The crowd was full of our “plants” – each camper got 10 comp tickets – but still, the crowd reaction was icing on the cake. Two thousand people cheered us on. The MO musicians smiled and congratulated us as we walked off the stage – they were gracious and classy at every turn.

But what did I learn?  What can I bring back to BSO?

There were little cello things I thought of right away – how I learned so much from sitting next to Tony Ross, principal cellist, and trying to mimic shift timing and bow articulation.  How well Osmo Vänskä can imitate the roar of a motorcycle.  How the cellists all stick their end pins right in the floor – and have metal files backstage to keep them dangerously sharp.  But most of you don’t care about that.  So I kept thinking.

I left that camp a changed musician, but why?  If it wasn’t the little things, then what were the big ones?  I think I needed some time to live with these changes to put them into words, but I finally found some.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.  Without doubt, the level of preparation of MO musicians is exemplary.  We were told when accepted into Camp that we needed to know that music when we arrived, and they weren’t kidding.  We had sectionals on our own, but our rehearsals with the MO musicians were little more than run-throughs.  When you walk on that hallowed stage, you are expected to have every note down.  How much would we all grow if we had that mindset whenever we played?  We are largely amateurs in BSO – we all have other commitments – but what if we all did our best to come into that first rehearsal performance-ready?  What if we could use those rehearsals to work on ensemble and musical expression, because the notes were already there?

Think like a conductor.  Sarah Hicks, Minnesota Orchestra’s principal conductor of Live at Orchestra Hall, did a seminar for us on The Art of Conducting.  She went through the preparation of a conductor– what they must think through, what decisions they must make – before they lead an orchestra.  This was truly eye-opening.  I always study recordings of our BSO repertoire, but am laser-focused on the cello line.  This inspired me to listen differently.  What else is going on?  Which line are we taking over?  Where do we fit in the context?  I hear music differently now than I did before, and even catch myself conducting in the car.

The orchestra is a family.  BSO’s own Concertmaster, Michael Sutton, was tasked with talking to the campers about what was loosely titled “Auditions.”  They couldn’t have put that job to anyone better suited.  We heard his personal story, asked a bunch of questions, and eventually through his candid and colorful storytelling heard some hysterical “inside jokes” of the orchestra that – more than anything all week – connected us to the MO in a personal way and made the “fantasy” come to life.  What can each of us do to bring that culture of professional respect, personal courtesy, and a playful sense of humor to our playing experiences?   How can we make coming to rehearsal a personal pleasure beyond the music?

Above and beyond all of this, however, I walked out with overwhelming gratitude for the Bloomington Symphony.  You see, unlike some of the other “campers” I met there, I did not leave camp wistfully wondering when I would get to play symphonic music again. I have an incredible opportunity every week to make music at a high level with truly wonderful people.  I can keep learning under the inspiring leadership of Manny Laureano and Michael Sutton – who through their examples make every rehearsal like our own mini Fantasy Camp.  I’ve always been proud and grateful to be part of the Bloomington Symphony, but never more so than now.  Like any incredible vacation, Fantasy Camp was a tremendous thrill to experience.  However, at the journey’s end… there’s no place like home.

Share

“Music in 3D: #4” Concert Preview No. 2

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the second edition of the “Musings” for the “Music in 3D: #4” concert that will be performed on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Concerto for ‘Cello in B minor by Antonín Dvorák

Antonín Dvorák

Some composers find their niches quickly and write defining pieces soon in their careers. Others learn more and truly deliver the works that become associated with their names, later in life. This was certainly true of this magnificent work for ‘cello by Antonín Dvorák (1841 – 1904). He had written a piano concerto which has gone into the dustbin of musical history. His next effort, the Concerto for Violin in A minor, has become somewhat of a standard for great soloists, but has not occupied the same place as those by Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Sibelius, Beethoven, or Mozart. To be sure, when one hears the Violin Concerto, it leaves one wondering why it’s not heard with greater frequency.

The fact is that Dvorák simply didn’t believe that the solo ‘cello was a powerful or compelling enough voice to soar over the body of an orchestra. Fate took a hand, however, when he decided to go to hear a premiere by a composer and education colleague at New York City’s National Conservatory, where Dvorák served as director. That colleague was Victor Herbert, whose Cello Concerto convinced Dvorák that he had been under a misconception. Dvorák set to work for two years, and in 1896 was able to have the noted English ‘cellist, Leo Stern, play the solo part at a premiere performance in London that changed the world order for the instrument forever.

In listening to the first movement, one is truly struck by the conversational quality of the relationship between orchestra and soloist. The opening is generous and takes its time introducing the solo voice of the ‘cello. When the ‘cello enters, its voice is stentorian and poetic. It shifts from anguished to playful to thoughtful, all the while demanding the best in the soloist’s technical prowess. This movement gives us a peek at a beautiful work of art that occupies a solid place in the repertoire.

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Music in 3D: #4” featuring cellist Nygel Witherspoon, winner of MNSOTA’s Mary West Solo Competition. The concert takes place on Sunday, April 2, 2017, at 3 p.m., at the Jefferson High School Auditorium (4001 West 102nd Street, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Bloomington Box Office or by calling 952-563-8575.

Share

Announcing April Soloist :: Nygel Witherspoon

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Nygel Witherspoon, Cello

Fifteen year old cellist Nygel Witherspoon will perform the first movement of Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto with the Bloomington Symphony at their Music in 3D: #4 concert on Sunday, April 2. The concert will be held at the Jefferson High School Auditorium in Bloomington at 3 p.m., and will be conducted by Music Director Manny Laureano.

Mr. Witherspoon is the Grand Prize winner of the Minnesota String and Orchestra Teacher’s Association (MNSOTA) Mary West Solo Competition, which was held in November 2016. The Grand Prize is a $250 cash award and the opportunity to solo with the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra.

To purchase tickets to the concert, please visit the Bloomington Box Office online or in person. Tickets will also be available for purchase at the door (cash or check only).

Share

Auditions to be held July 14

The Bloomington Symphony Orchestra will hold auditions on Monday, July 14, 2014 from 6:30 – 9:30 p.m. at the Bloomington Center for the Arts. Interested musicians are invited to visit the Audition page for more information. Musicians may also download the audition letter here.Bassoons

Open positions include: Principal Second Violin, Assistant Principal First Violin (two chairs), Associate Principal Viola, Associate Principal Cello, Principal Bass, section violin, viola and cello, Flute III & Piccolo II (must play both) and Oboe III with optional English horn. Other instruments are invited to audition for place on our substitute roster.

We asked a few of our current players why they play with the Bloomington Symphony. Here is what they said:

“The Bloomington Symphony provides the opportunity for its musicians and its audience to really meet classical music where it is meant to be encountered…at close quarters with your neighbors and friends.”

“Performing with the BSO is a joy for me! I began learning how to play violin at the age of 6 and played with various orchestras all the way up through my college years. After graduating from college, I wondered if I’d find an orchestra that would challenge me and keep me growing as a musician. The BSO has done just that!”

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be playing in my 25th season with the BSO. I continue to carve out time to play in this fantastic organization because of the enthusiastic reception from our audiences, wonderful friendships both old and new, and the experience of making music. Music enhances nearly everything I do, and the BSO is an integral part of my life.”

 

Share
MENU