The day started badly. I overslept.
I "came to" at 6:36, hardly time to eat and dress and be off by 7:30.
Traffic was light and fast and I reached the stage door at 8:30.
When the stagehand who carried in my bass told me I'd be between Dan and Brett, I realized the top guns would be participating. I had rather expected back-row players to be assigned us amateurs.
Leaving backstage, I passed two men who asked how I was doing. "Scared." "Don't be. This is going to be fun." "You must be real musicians," I replied. "No, we're tuba players." I knew now the day was going to be just fine.
I sat for the orientation (coffee and two doughnuts!) with a confident young flutist and a piccolo player who had learned only last Monday that she'd be participating. She was much more nervous than I. Robin Parkinson, a perky young woman who remembered me the second time we met, related that there were 35 of us participants with the youngest 22 and the oldest 78. Seven in fact were in their seventies. Attendees came also from Florida, Maryland and Texas.
No "warm-up" as scheduled but a full rehearsal 10 to 12:30. Brett Shurtliffe was my stand partner which couldn't have pleased me more. He was open, friendly, funny and fun and immediately put me at ease though I think I missed every page turn. After my solo entrance he gently explained Matt's "magic moments": wait longer after his downbeat.
I was very impressed to see most of the principals. Concertmaster Michael Ludwig was not only present but played all the beautiful solos in "Scheherazade." It felt so special to be so close to such heavenly tones.
Jim had told me this was "easy" music so I have to admit feeling pleased when the Maestro called all four "challenges even for professional musicians who have played them hundreds of times." (Of course Jim is vastly more skilled than I.)
Lunch (salad, subs, chips, yummy cookies). I sat with the other bassists (Dan, Brett and Paul who, like me, was also a guest) and 3 upper string players. I liked listening to their conversations too.
The idea of a sectional (two basses, four cellos) terrified me because I believed all my faking would be obvious with no one to cover my mistakes. The leader (head cello for the day) had only good things to say to us basses and I felt super-confident playing in tune and at least as well as I ever had.
Paul Ferington had much interesting to say about the American orchestra and Chris Brown led a great tour of Kleinhans and the grounds.
Three were waiting when I arrived at Prospero for dinner. They had actually gotten there at 4:30 and were enjoying the same good wine Rick had recommended to us. I wanted no more than a salad which was huge (and good). Not hungry, I began to get very shaky and couldn't wait to hurry back to where I felt more comfortable. I likened it to feeling like a fish out of water. (Musicians understand this; I still don't.) Three other BPO bassists were there and greeted me as cordially as had everybody else.
The audience was small but the music was certainly rousing. I turned all the pages perfectly.
Starting with Dvorak's "Carnival Overture" (they didn't need me for those high As), I really enjoyed my time with Brett and didn't come in too soon for the opening of Beethoven's "Egmont." Nor did I get lost during the final movement of "Scheherazade." However I was tired and made a lot of sloppy mistakes. The pizzicato third movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth whizzed by, again more quickly than my fingers. First thing I knew we were into the final pages and I realized it was all almost over. I can honestly say I did not regret one minute of all those hours of practice - nor was I sorry I hadn't pushed harder. I think I was pretty close to my limit, physically and mentally.
Once the car was packed, we returned for the reception. Manhattans and other poured cocktails were set out in rows on a table at the far end of the hall. A bloodhound couldn't have made a straighter beeline. I loaded up on cheese and crackers and vegetables and dip. I was ravenous.
A lovely arrangement of roses waited at home with a bottle of good champagne. Fantastic day, perfect ending.
I've been asked since if I would do it again. I don't think so for I likened it to returning from the perfect trip. Why go back when such high expectations could never be met again?
Will I touch the bass again? Not yet.
But I hope so.
Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to email@example.com