It’s almost showtime!
After a beautiful, snowy morning here in New York City, the Houston Symphony finally took to the stage of Carnegie Hall this afternoon for a quick rehearsal before tonight’s concert.
As Assistant Conductor, when I’m not on the podium myself, my job is to do anything and everything musically necessary in rehearsal to support Hans and the orchestra’s work onstage. One of those jobs is to be an extra pair of ears out in the hall, especially when we’re on the road, playing in a venue other the Jones Hall. Orchestras get accustomed to playing in their “home hall,” and a different hall—no matter how great it is—takes some adjusting. Every hall is different, and responds in its own, unique way to the sounds coming from the stage. Helping to make sure that everything is balanced the way Hans and the orchestra want and are accustomed to takes some serious, in-depth listening, first at home (so you know what you’re listening for), then on the road (comparing it to our “home sound”).
One extra wrinkle in this program is that not only do we have our orchestra onstage, but we also have our women’s chorus offstage to sing at the end of “Neptune” in The Planets. First and foremost, we have to ensure that they can be heard in the hall and that the aforementioned balance is satisfactory; in order to achieve that, the chorus’s actual physical placement changes from hall to hall. Because every backstage area is different, finding a place where the chorus can both see and hear everything they need is always a challenge. Here at Carnegie, the chorus is in a tiny alcove (no bigger than the living room of my Montrose apartment back in Houston) just offstage right. In more ways than one, our chorus is definitely growing closer on this tour!
Sometimes assisting Hans and the orchestra takes a different shape altogether. After rehearsal proper finished this afternoon, Hans and the cello section stayed to work on an interlude in the Dutilleux work that we’re playing this evening. There’s also a small celesta part in this interlude, and as our principal keyboardist Scott Holshouser had already left the hall, Hans had me play the part…thus marking my inauspicious onstage Carnegie Hall debut!
Now that we’ve got orchestra and chorus balances adjusted to everyone’s liking and the sound of Carnegie in our ears, we’re ready for tonight’s concert. Then we start all over again on Saturday for the first of two concerts (in two different venues, no less) in Florida. Thus the lives of touring orchestras!