Friday, May 23, 2008

Violist breaks a string during Carmina - and other observations

During the Monday evening performance of Carmina Burana with the Oregon Symphony, I noticed that principal violist Joël Belgique broke a string on his viola and quickly repaired it during a movement later in the work when he didn't have all that much to play. I talked with Belgique yesterday over the phone about it - just because broken strings during performances don't occur all that often.

Which string broke?

Belgique: It was the G string, which is located second to the bottom. You know, I played a concert with Fear No Music in Utah three months ago and a string broke on the same spot twice in the same piece. This usually indicates that there’s something sharp on edge of the bridge.

So I went to get that fixed and thought that it would be fine but the feroce in the Carmina got it. I keep a separate set of strings in the pocket of my tails if anything goes wrong. Carmina is pretty easy for the strings and there was a movement in which I didn’t have to play, so I did some repair work and it was pretty successful. I’ve actually practiced restringing just in case this sort of thing happens.

Charles Noble, the assistant principal, offered his viola, but I opted to try my repair skills. I might have had to have used his viola if the music had been more demanding.

Thanks for giving us the lowdown!

Belgique: No problem.

--- other observations --

On Sunday evening, Kalmar had a great way of raising one eyebrow each time that the women of the choir had to sing a quick, repeating phrase. It was pretty uncanny.

I loved the way that baritone Stephen Powell could put a hiccup at the end of one of his passages. And his timing was impeccable.

On Sunday evening the percussion and the keyboards fell behind the beat at one point and then on Monday the Horn section fell behind the beat for a short while.

I head a couple of people in the choir jump the gun in a couple of spots on Sunday and Monday.

We received standing ovations every night, but the audience really jumped out of their seats on Saturday and Monday. It was great to see a sold-out Monday evening performance. I heard that people were turned away at the box office.

The program notes by Elizabeth Schwartz were fine, but she left out the famous quote by Jim Svejda about Carmina: "For at the end, we are thoroughly convinced that this is music that a gland would write, if only it could."

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