02Classique 2015 Fêtes Royales de Versailles à Dembéni

           

You might vaguely remember these posters. The music school organized a concert at the beginning of February whose theme was "the Royal Celebrations of Versailles". It was such a success - the first classical concert of the year, so 250 people came - that the university centre in Mayotte bought the concert too. We repeated the concert in the university amphitheatre at the end of last month.

I don't think I've ever made so big a mess of a concert, and I wasn't the only one. There weren't enough sockets, so not everybody had a music stand light and one or two couldn't see what they were doing. The air conditioning was on full blast, people in the audience were wearing scarves, and the cold air incapacitated our singer, who squeaked rather than boomed. We all made mistakes, especially whenever there were repeats in the music. Some would respect the repeat and start again at the beginning, the way we were supposed to. Others would carry on regardless, forgetting that there was a repeat at that point. And this is in a baroque concert, where there are a lot of repeats.

It was quite interesting to see the different musicians' reactions to their own mistakes. The pianist, who had his back turned to the audience, would smile sweetly and play louder to make sure everybody followed him in his mistake. When we made mistakes, he would also smile sweetly at us and make sure everybody knew something had gone wrong and that he would get us all back on track if we would just play along for a second. When the first violinist made a mistake, she would pull a face and play rubbish, lost as to where she was supposed to be. The clarinetist would harmonize quietly until he sorted himself out. I tended to miss the start when repeating bits, so I would wait until the theme started again and join in as discreetly as possible. The best was the cellist. She made one mistake in the concert, but you couldn't possibly miss it. She played her wrong notes, stopped, stared at her sheet music, turned the page, turned it back, put the cello down and looked wildly around with a horrified face. You could just imagine her standing up, waving her arms, shouting "Sorry!" and asking to start again at bar number 35.

The repeat concert was not a success. Of course, it had to happen on the one time the high education authorities had all come to listen. I have a feeling that we won't be playing for the university again.

The videos below are of the first concert, the one that went well.

              

       

Valses de Vienne

          

Before even doing the repeat concert, we had started rehearsing for the following one, which was just a couple of weeks later. This one's theme was the Viennese Waltzes: Strauss's Blue Danube, Dvorak's Slavonic Dances, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, Brahms's Hungarian Dances, that sort of thing. Good fun if a bit limited rhythmically. Unfortunately, the music itself turned out to be rather difficult. I was playing the flute part, so transposing everything down an octave. The clarinetist was playing a mixture of clarinet, oboe and horn parts, transposing two out of the three in two different directions, and following on the orchestral sheet music, so turning the page every eight bars or so. I'm not complaining.

The problem with this concert was that mistakes weren't allowed. A lot of people find baroque music pretty, but they mostly don't know the tunes that well, so you can make a few quiet mistakes without too many people noticing. However, these were very well-known tunes... and people who have never played the things, but have heard them a few times, are usually the first to notice when something isn't quite the way it should be. Never mind the fact that they own the CD recorded by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra or by the Vienna Philharmonic, and that the concert is showcasing teachers and pupils from the local music school. They know the tunes, or they think they do, so it has to be perfect.

              

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I thought the concert actually went pretty well. We had an introduction by the only musicology researcher in Mayotte, a lovely Malagasy guy called Victor. Unfortunately, he hadn't really understood the idea of "a simple introduction to waltzes" and droned on for a good twenty minutes, while everybody yawned, talked amongst themselves and tried to keep young children quiet. We then played a series of well-known waltzes. We really had worked on the pieces, and some of them were technically harder for me than most, so I was very pleased that it turned out fairly well. The second of the two videos below was the hardest piece for me to play, as it involved a lot of quick notes with three flats, so I was happy to get that one out of the way.

           

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Our pianist had forgotten his shoes and had been forbidden to play in flip-flops, so he ended up barefoot.

         

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Part of Strauss's Blue Danube.

Part of Dvorak's Slavonic Dances.