`tis the Season…

9 12 2007

With the annual concert fast approaching, the orchestra is busy trying to raise money for our uniforms. We’ve elected on a look that closely resembles English public school students (vest, ties, white dress shirts, etc.), partly because all the items can be reused apart from an orchestra performance, and partly because its a smart look altogether.

However, if a student were to purchase the complete set from scratch, he or she would have to shell out close to a thousand pesos (a lot of money). So the orchestra has launched several little projects to help subsidize the cost…we’ve been baking and selling Rice Krispies squares and (the subject of this post) caroling.

Caroling is a fairly fast way of raising the required amount (35,000 – we will be thankful to raise half that), but it is quite stressful, both on the patience and on the budget. Transporting five musicians, five music stands, and five instruments (2 violins, a viola, a cello, and a double bass) to anywhere beyond easy walking distance is a true logistics nightmare. Trying to play well in less-than-ideal conditions at less-than-ideal times is also not for the weak of heart.

Our first gig, our cellist opens his case only to discover (to our horror) that he forgot his bow. I had to lend him the double bass bow (whoa!), and I had to play with the only extra bow available – a tiny 3/4 violin bow (I was playing the bass). Upon commencing, the violist was utterly unable to control his volume, and (groan) utterly out of tune, drowning everyone else out in a cascade of wrong notes. But somehow, we were still fed, and we were still paid(!)

Our second gig, the owners of the house wouldn’t even let us in, saying they’re home was an “utter mess”. We ended up playing in their driveway by streetlight…a very difficult thing to do. The violist was still loud and still out of tune. But we got paid.

Our third gig was at a Christmas Party for a local church. The program started an hour late (it was supposed to be at 7pm), and we ended-up waiting for two hours, which we whiled away by practicing, finally getting the viola (and the violist) in tune, and trying not to blow our entire food budget on frappuccinos at Starbucks. We finally performed at 10pm, we actually sounded good…and we weren’t paid.

I’m just glad my students are more excited by the experience of performing and having all these strange adventures than by the prospect of being paid. Nevertheless, its really discouraging to go through all that trouble (wait until you try to fit a double bass into any vehicle smaller than a truck) and have very little in the way of compensation.

Oh well. `Tis the season, after all…

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