Yesterday, the Boston Guitar Orchestra held its first open rehearsal at the Somerville Public Library. I dare take credit for suggesting it to Robert, the conductor and artistic director. Rehearsing in a public space will draw attention to who we are. This idea was born years ago when I proposed to situate new digital pianos from my innovation grant in the library and other places outside the classroom. Visibility raises awareness.
So what was it like to rehearse in the open?
By the time walked into the auditorium, a name given to the library’s largest room, two adults and a child were already seated in anticipation of our open rehearsal. I brought my 12.9 inch iPad instead of my music stand and propped it on an orange plastic chair in front of me.
The three pieces assigned for the upcoming concert before Jorge Caballero on 27th April 2018 were much easier than the previous two concerts (Pictures at an Exhibition and Robert Beaser’s Chaconne). As the artistic director did not have time to create a tablature version for me, he encouraged me to try to read from the score.
Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to figure out where to put my left fingers and which strings to play using my right hand. I double checked the note placements with visualisations of chord diagrams in my head. While I didn’t always play the correct notes, my rhythm and timing were spot on. Miraculously, I had graduated from tablature to Western notation in one rehearsal. I was proud of myself.
As for all concerts before a visiting artist of the Boston Classical Guitar Society, the artistic director tries to programme pieces related to the artist. For Croatian guitarist Zoran Dukic, Robert arranged Pictures at an Exhibition by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky for Russia was the closest he could get to Eastern Europe. For the Peruvian artist Jorge Caballero, he chose the following pieces.
Carlo Comeniconi’s “Never forget Atahualpa” was not a new piece for the orchestra. They had performed it at least once, at the New England Guitar Ensemble Festival in 2015 and at the Hingham Public Library (see recording below, ending at 33 min. 31 sec.)
Andrew Forrest’s Joropo is easy to read and a jam to play. The sheet music can be found freely online.
The third and last piece is the jazzy and fun Bluezilian by Clarice Assad. Here’s an interpretation by Mexican Guitar Quartet.
After the rehearsal, I announced that I could now read notes. One guitarist asked me how else I could play the guitar for he had never heard of tabs. Another said she couldn’t read tablature. I responded, “Please don’t tease me.” In every rehearsal, I had tried to hide my tab score, for I was ashamed that I couldn’t read notes for the guitar.
“Honestly, I can’t read from tab,” one guitarist said. “Notes are much easier.”
As we packed away our guitars, sheet music, foot stools, and music stands, we discussed how nice it was to have our own space to rehearse as normally we’d have to wait for a classroom or studio to be freed up on the third floor of the New England Conservatory. We don’t have a designated room but we’re grateful we are allowed to use the rooms there. Usually the rooms that are free when we arrive early (before 6 pm) are taken when we need it and vice versa. And then we’d have to scramble for chairs (without arm rests and desks) and music stands from other rooms. So it takes at least ten to fifteen minutes of running around and setting up before we are ready to rehearse.
In a different location, we noodled over where to go for our usual post-rehearsal eat, drink, and unwind. Robert announced that the next rehearsal will be Sunday 15th April morning at the Walter Baker Artist Lofts common room, with authentic Taiwanese/Szechuan lunch afterwards. The final rehearsal before the dress rehearsal and concert will take place at Yamaha Music School in Lexington on Monday 23rd April at 6 pm. Hopefully our open rehearsals will interest local guitarists to join us.
These days public libraries are gathering places for all sorts of interests, not just books and book lovers. The first time I visited the Somerville Public Library was to attend a free writing workshop. I walked into the auditorium a full hour early only to be told that an English as a Second Language workshop was about to begin. The lady in charge guessed that I was in the wrong place and directed me to the conference room next door. In a few weeks, I will be giving beginning ukulele workshops to teenagers at the Adams Street branch of the Boston Public Library. It will be a new trend for libraries to lend out musical instruments. And why not?