Here I am again, recording UIL. This time it’s the orchestras: first the middle schools, then the high schools. Since this is my first solo recording gig, I got here about an hour and a half before the 8:30 start time to give a little more than the normal lead time of an hour.  To keep my interest from flagging, I decided to keep a record of events and thoughts during the day.

7:28  Sorting through the CDs and jewel case inserts, I discovered that Georgetown High School was missing. I looked again and found a CD and jewel case insert for Austin High School! Alerted the appropriate people and continued with set up.

7:40  Not only finished set up very early, but also had time to start writing this. I anticipate a long wait before the first group starts.

8:00 Holy ^&*(! They started half an hour early! There will be a lot of disappointed players whose parents came half an hour too late./ The announcer is a small woman. I nearly missed seeing her, hidden by a stage full of musicians as she was.

8:16 First group is done. Finalizing the CD as the group leaves the concert stage for the sight reading room. I notice the harpist left her instrument on stage….oh, here she is.

8:21 Finished setting up for the next group. Compared the program to the time sheet I was given. Guess who was told the wrong time. Oh well, at least there were parents in the audience. Back to putting jewel cases together.

8:25 Here comes the next group. It’s a full orchestra, this time. Oh God, they’re doing Schubert. Not one of my favorite composers. Aaaaand it looks like the stage hands forgot a few stands and chairs. Half the woodwinds and both French horn players are milling around giving the assistant director panicked looks.

8:30 Ah. They’re bringing in risers. Looks like a late start. They started 8:35. I hope the pieces are short, or the rest of the day is going to get behind.

8:45 OMG! Chisolm Trail Middle School is this morning! My schedule had them for tomorrow afternoon. I have until 9:30 to figure out how to deal with it. In the mean time, I have to set up for the next group.

8:55 When I went to put the CD on the judges’ table to be picked up with the critiques, the previous group’s hadn’t been picked up. So one desperate search under tight deadline later, I found the right person to talk to. When I got back to the auditorium, the next group was already seated. Made it back to my recording seat before the announcer came on. On the upside, the program is back on schedule.

9:07 Good Lord! This director gives almost no time to switch between recording tracks. The good news? They’re playing Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, Mvt. 2, one of my favorites from the Bach era.

9:16 Orchestra is gone. Sounds like major construction going on in the other wing of the stage. Probably adjusting risers. I know they’ll need them. The last group of the day has more than 100 kids playing on stage.

9:24 Just talked with the announcer. As I passed the bangings, I saw they were indeed putting risers together. Lots and lots of risers.

9:30 Got to the record button just in time. Literally. I pushed it just as the announcer took her breath before speaking. Too close for comfort.

9:28 Wow! Excellent rendition of Sunayama. Best I’ve heard this year, so far. The violinists who played the duet part did a really good job with blending their sound.

9:42 I think I’ve found my rhythm in balancing recording, writing, preparing jewel cases, etc.

9:54 Argh! Another scheduling mixup. Have to re-order the CDs and jewel case inserts. So much for my rhythm.

10:03 Got the order situation straightened out during this group’s first song. Thankfully the problem would have been around lunch time. This is why I like to stay a few jewel cases ahead—helps me catch many problems before they become problems. Unless they changed the order of groups since the program was printed, I should be okay for the rest of the day.

10:10 I really loike this middle school orchestra. Each section is very precise in its part. The notes in each run don’t mush together. Sounds almost like one instrument. A skill rare in middle school orchestras. I’ve heard high school orchestras far worse. Intonation was excellent. If there was anything I could hear that could have been improved was to exaggerate the dynamic shifts a bit more.

10:30 Break time! After the break, we get into the high schools. Looks like Westwood has three full orchestras; and judging by the setup of the first (i.e. the “sub non-varsity”), all three are huge! Oh, good…I have a vibraphone right in front of me, blocking my line of sight to the announcer.

Looking ahead on the program, the high schools are doing some pretty ambitious programs. Very few are arrangements. A couple Rimsky-Korsakoffs, a Borodin, Copland, Holst, Ravel, a couple by Berlioz, and dear Lord, Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, Mvt IV. I really hope they’re up to it or this could get very painful very quickly.

11:08 Oops. The last group had so many people, the stage hands hadn’t yet reset the stage before the next group came on. I helped them out a bit.

11:22 This group needs more violins. Not enough to balance even the number of lower strings (cellos, basses, violas), much less balancing the brass.

11:25 I wonder what’s being catered for lunch.

11:50 Here comes the last group before lunch.

12:05 The harpist on the second piece is awesome! Nice balance on the strings, they’re not drowning out the harp, something very easy to do.

12:11 Wow, that was very entrancing. I even forgot I was hungry. One more piece to go…the Borodin.

12:21 That final piece was amazingly well done. I wasn’t sure they could handle Borodin, but they played it beautifully.

1:00 BBQ

1:01 I come back to set up for the afternoon groups and find the path to my recording rig blocked by vibraphones, xylophones, and of all things a grand piano. Yes, the next group has to squeeze in around a grand piano.

1:30 Both stage and backstage are so crowded for this next group, the harpist couldn’t get her instrument into place.

1:43 There’s something deliciously ironic about taking “Tis a Gift To Be Simple” and putting it through elaborate and torturous variations. I think Copland had a sense of humor after all.

1:52 And now they not only have to move the grand piano, they have to find somewhere to put it.

2:17 Oh, good. Not only do I have a percussionist in front of me, there’s a bell tower in front of him. Wonderful sight lines to the director.

2:25 One of the French horns just lost a part off their instrument.

2:27 Grr. Another director who doesn’t lift her arms during the opening solo. Managed to hit the record button in time when I realized what she was doing.

2:34 Does this piece ever end?

2:54 The place to store the bell tower is NOT in front of the person doing the recording.

2:57 Last stand of the 2nd violins: Big, huge guy—itty bitty gal. Seriously. He’s gotta be 6’4” and she’s barely 5’ (if that)

3:12 Another interminable piece. Surprise—it’s by Schubert.

3:54 Only two groups left.

4:20 Oh Dear Lord. This group wasn’t nearly this good last year. They nailed all three of their pieces…and they were some of the most difficult pieces I’ve played. “The Montagues and the Capulets” from Romeo and Juliet was incredible. The dissonances were perfect! I consider it one of the most difficult opening themes in symphonic music. And their Dvorak’s 9th Symphony, Mvt IV very nearly had me jumping up and down. It contains some of the more difficult french horn solos outside Fanfare for the Common Man. It’s going to be VERY difficult for the last group of the day to shine compared to this group. Wow. Just…Wow.

4:36 WTF? Is that a harpsichord they’re bringing out?

4:37 Nope. It’s a Roland Electric Organ.

4:39 Wow. Huge group. Very tight fit on stage. Some of the larger instruments are partially hidden in the wings. Looks like an almost perfect balance of instruments.

4:53 Floored. Just floored. Amazing performance of Holst’s “Jupiter”.

5:13 O.M.F.G. OMFG! I would put this last group up against the Austin Symphony Orchestra on Symphonie Fantastique, “The Witches’ Sabbath” Mv. V by Berlioz. Absolutely sublime.

Driving home, I wish I had someone to benefit from the aftereffects of this adrenaline rush…I’m in the mood to ravish someone. Volunteers? No? Oh well.