For months I toil in the name of music.
I research potential works- those ready made and those that may need an experienced hand to craft a piece for our ensemble. Or I may seek the services of those who commit part of their life to creating new things to play. Sometimes each of these avenues provides a bud that blooms successfully; for every successful bloom a hundred are not so lucky.
I’ll buy recordings and sheet music which, although they may enlighten my knowledge base, may very often turn out to be a dead end for a concert (if sometimes only for the short term). Your trail of recordings and manuscripts will often only provide a handful of potential leads; a killing field that, unlike its metaphor, my find parts that return to life.
I’ll spend about one hundred hours for every new work or arrangement that I create, including laying out parts, scores, and practise recordings for the potential performers. Sometimes these resources don’t get appreciated or utilised by their potential users, but I don’t put that against them.
Booking a venue can be a many layered process, involving having to provide funds and documentation to get an insurance policy that allows one to make an application to hire a venue. Then, after paying for the insurance, you get the opportunity to pay the venue.
Depending on the venue, you may have to pay royalties if the venue isn’t licenced for music…another loop. More emails, more money, more waiting for confirmation.
The the hiring of parts. More emails, more money, followed by preparing the parts for the players.
Ah- the players!
Recruiting players involves ringing about triple the number of people that you need to get the number that you need. Having to hassle them (politely of course) to get back to you to see if they can, or are interested, in doing it. Some bring friends along; a small mercy. Often you’ll book more than you need, because someone will always drop out at the last minute. You always need a backup plan for everything.
And as the rehearsal days get closer you start to feel a confidence wash over you: a faux bourdon. You think that everyone will turn up (and at the right time and place), and that you will be able to lunge through everything straight away.
Some will turn up without having looked at their music- or even without any music. Some will have had a domestic crisis of some sort on the day of an important rehearsal, meaning that they can’t attend; your heart goes out to them but your toes start to curl as someone else lets you know at the last minute that they’ve been detained also, and won’t be coming.
The rehearsal attendance from week to week starts to get erratic. You see a different group of faces every week, but wish for a improvement in the sense of ensemble. You start to fret (and your eye starts to twitch unexpectedly).
An important player, who you’d agreed to do only a handful of rehearsals, lets you down at the last minute, resulting in a last minute program change. Deep down you feel terrible doing this due to the efforts of everyone else, but you know that you can’t do anything else but that which you have to do. You end up finding yourself having to work even harder- another half a day-to make up for someone else’s lack of commitment/organisation skills.
You start to wonder why you have put yourself through all of this: months of toil, deadlines, disappointments (briefly forgetting the silent, dedicated majority who are loyal to you), having to handle cold, impersonal, forms from faceless organisations, devoid of emotion or interest in your novel pursuit. Hands outstretched requiring nothing of your personality, and forms- more forms. You wonder if anyone has any interest in what you’re trying to do.
…and then, after much toil- usually in the midst of several mini crises- something happens. A rehearsal goes well; the ensemble starts to ‘click’, and you can feel them listening to one another. The long hours don’t matter; the unexpected obstacles that have been jabbing at your sides for months lose their barbs. It’s during this point that you realise why you put yourself through all of this. The answer is simple:
You love seeing the players getting into the music; you love seeing them feed off each other’s energy; finally, you love sharing the music with an audience, and seeing the love returned from the audience in return.
Not long after, you decide to put yourself through it all again, and start to organise another concert.
Oh you lovely fool!
Adrian is the founder and Musical Director of the Ady Ensemble