Sunday, 8 September 2013

On My First Ensemble Experience

This weekend, I had the distinct pleasure to attend the St Vitas Dance and Music Weekend in Politarchopolis. This is the third time I've attended this fine event (every year since I joined the Society), and every year brings some new learning and some new experiences. This year's fancy new learning was some excellent breathing technique advice for singing and wind instruments, but the new experience for this year's St Vitas is what I'd like to talk about with today's post.

During the course of Saturday, there were various occasions where the people in the music classes brought out their recorders, for various reasons, and luckily I had also brought my cheap little descant recorder along. When the "Ball Music Practice" session came up, I timidly admitted that I might be able to play a few of the simpler dances with them. They were kind, they were welcoming, they... encouraged me to practice the easier line in whatever they were practising.

I was somewhat intimidated by the prospect, but tried my best. I'd never played in a recorder ensemble (or in any ensemble, other than one concert in year 6. I rocked that glockenspiel) at any level, and going straight into a public performance with it was rather daunting. I'd also never played for dancers, which also changed things rather dramatically. I will freely admit, I was barely keeping up (if at all) while we practised. But, when the ball started, I decided that I would make my seat with the musicians, and at least try for most of the songs.

There were a lot of missed notes, a decent amount of wrong notes, and a fair few songs where I couldn't keep up and had to drop out, but the feeling of being surrounded by excellent musicians, and feeling like I was at least earning my seat in the middle of them was, quite literally, euphoric. I was rather nervous at places, especially the few times when I found myself holding the main melody line on my own while the more experienced players played the bottom lines, but it all seemed to work out reasonably well, and all of my slip-ups and drop-outs were covered by the others.

I left the ball with a lot more confidence in my abilities, and a lot more drive to practice and play the recorder, and a rather fat folder full of sheet music, as much as I'll ever require for almost any ball, and also a deep gratitude for everyone who helped me through my first time playing in an ensemble.

If only I'd thought ahead and gotten contact details for them...


  1. Playing as part of a "Dance Band" can be a ball. I was a drummer for the Rowany dance band for a couple of years. One of the best nights of playing I remember was at a feast where played a very large part of our repertoire. At the end of the night we helped to pack up the hall and there under some unused banners was the cd player also unused :) it was a wonderful feeling.

    Who would you like to contact? I may be able to help?

    1. Showing my keen ability to remember names, I'm after such specific and snazzy people as "Jen" and "Lyssa the Festival Troll Queen" and several whose names have just gone in one ear and out the other.

  2. Ok, There are many Jen's but I believe the one you are after is Jennifer Blaikie and she is on facebook, Lyssa Llewensdottiir, I'll let her know you want to contact her. That's a start hay may be able to help you further.

    1. Many thanks. I've found Jennifer Blaikie on Facebook, and that is indeed the one I meant. The help is greatly appreciated.