We get off to a later start this morning, 9.30 am as opposed to 8.45 yesterday.
More work on the Dvořák. We work on the last movement.
Neal (Gripp has asked us to call him by his first name, and to feel free to ask questions) again emphasises the great ‘craft’ of the work. So many themes that have been laid out in earlier movements come back to haunt us here.
The very opening melody of the last movement returns as an obsessive idée fixe in the violas, as the backdrop to the ‘Going home’ tune from the second movement. This is sheer genius. (I’ve come back and looked this up, and the lyrics to ‘Goin’ home’ were written by Dvořák’s pupil William Fisher using the now famous tune, but the tune itself seems to have been modelled by Dvořák on spirituals written by African-American composer Harry Burleigh whom he had met).
Neal tells us how path-breaking, controversial even, it must have been to use a Negro spiritual or spiritual-like tune and insert into a symphony, the epitome of what was until then decidedly the ‘white’ man’s cultural preserve. Could Dvořák have been attempting much more than merely borrowing a nice ‘New World’ tune? Could he have been making a larger point here? Questions like these allow us to understand, to appreciate the music even more.
We work again on our little ‘viola solo’ at the end of the Scherzo. I decide that I’ll watch our section leader Cat like a hawk here, so that we all play the complicated rhythm in unison.
We work on the Pulcinella as well. i’m not playing it at the concert, but offer to play it at rehearsal, ‘just for fun.’ I quickly realise that it’s not a walk in the park. We begin with the Tarantella movement, through to the end.
Today seems to be a day that illness and the heat have caught up with the Canadians, however. My desk partner Josh seems to have a gippy tummy, and quite a few others are showing signs of what seem like mild dehydration.
The organisers are on the ball, and medications, oral rehydration sachets and fluids are at hand for whoever needs them.
After lunch, it’s a tutti rehearsal, and we rehearse first the Dvořák. We work on the Scherzo. Timpani is crucial here, but our timpanist is unwell too, so we soldier on without him.
We get our ‘viola solo’ moment at last. Conductor Alain Trudel lets us in on a trade secret: a mnemonic to help us with our 1-2-3-4-5, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3, 1 rhythm: “I-like-po-tay-toes. Do-you-like-them? I-like-them too!” We (the violas) say it, then play it. And would you know, it helps! Hugely! We’re going to be the show-stopper of the concert, just you wait and see!
I love to watch and listen to the woodwind and brass have their chords tuned and balanced. When they are in perfect tune, the ‘beating’ stops, and one gets a lovely pleasant ‘buzz’. It’s a great feeling, to hear it emerge from what earlier didn’t sound too bad, but then you hear the difference after a little tweaking; the bassoon going a tad lower, the flute a tad sharper, etc.
More Pulcinella for the smaller ensemble, and then we break up for the day.
It’s an uncharacteristically hot muggy day, and it soon becomes apparent why. The skies open, and it rains furiously, with no let-up. Some of us in the orchestra had plans to see ‘Star Trek’ in 3D, but it’s a wash-out. I ask if we could go despite it, and as if to emphasise the futility of it all, there’s a bright flash of lightning and a furious thunderclap. And typically, my umbrella is lying safely in my suitcase! Some help! It looks like we’re not gonna boldly go where no man has gone before, not tonight!
I resign myself to the long rickshaw ride to RT Nagar. Thankfully one shows up soon enough. I duck in to escape the pouring rain. the driver insists on 1 1/2 the usual metered fare. It’s a hostage situation, so I accept. We splish our way through the huge puddles, and get splashed in return. In a moment of dark humour, the ‘Goin’ Home’ tune plays in my head all the half-hour journey back. It’s rather soothing, really.