I woke up to snow falling in Minneapolis. I knew the 70-degree-and-sunny weather wouldn’t last the whole week, but we almost got there. Today, though, I’ve got bigger fish to fry and can’t stop to contemplate the snowstorm outside; today, the Minnesota Orchestra will play my music in concert.
Yesterday, they rehearsed my piece Patriot for the first time, and for only 45 minutes. (Some of my fellow composers got even less time.) Yet, they totally killed it—in a good way. The focus and professionalism of this group is truly at another level—something I’ve never experienced and probably won’t for a long time if ever again.
Across the board, difficult passages were nailed on a first reading. My piece has a lot of difficult rhythmic flute writing. Coming into the rehearsal, I was worried about how the flutists would react, and I guess I thought it would take a substantial amount of rehearsal time to get their parts right. Instead, they were just awesome the first time around. For the first time ever, I had to tell the percussionists to tone it down a little bit—they just completely rocked it; I’ve never heard a marimba ring out in an orchestra so brilliantly. It made my heart jump to hear so many people play what I wrote.
Furthermore, the orchestra vastly improved each time they heard a passage. The second time through any passage, the musicians added infinitely more shape and expression—astoundingly, often entirely without any words from the conductor at all. By merely saying “Let’s rehearse it from bar 80,” the orchestra knew what they had to do to make it better—time was of the essence, and all words were chosen very carefully.
Not to sound like a cheerleader, but this program is unlike anything else I’ve heard of. Here, all the ups and downs of composing for orchestra are brought out into the light, and together composers and orchestral musicians are leading the way toward a more communicative future. I am lucky to have this kind of support, and I know the other composers here feel the same way. Aaron Jay Kernis and Beth Cowart have done an unbelievable job making this experience sincerely rewarding.
Listen tonight? We’ll be webcast on Minnesota Public Radio at 8 p.m. central time.