How Many Rehearsals?

I’m writing this post just as I arrive home from our performance at the Chicago Cultural Center, premiering Rural Sketches by Igor Iachimciuc with Matthew Coley, marimba (click for more details).

If you were in attendance today, thank you so much for being a part of a lovely audience! I really hope that you enjoyed the piece. If your interest in double bass music is piqued, please join our mailing list to learn about future performances!

One of the most common questions I’m asked about any piece of music we perform or concert we give is “how many rehearsals did you have?” I have to admit, it’s fun to give the answer and watch people’s surprise at it. I won’t be able to see all of your expressions as you read this, but please feel free to leave a comment.

How many rehearsals did we have, with all the performers, for this piece? One. An hour before the performance.

Go ahead, take that selfie of your amazed expression and send it to me…

Now, that’s the “shock value” answer. For a variety of reasons, we had only the one rehearsal, this morning, with everyone in attendance. We had six rehearsals with some subset of the group together. The smallest group we had for a rehearsal is three. Several times we had four of us. Matt drove from Iowa to Chicago to rehearse with us one time, a week ago, and that was the first rehearsal that Leslie B. Dunner joined us to conduct. But only five of the bassists were present for that.

It’s a real testament to the professionalism and skill of all my colleagues that we are able to put a piece together in few rehearsals. But, if I may make a broader point, this is not uncommon for professional musicians. We all work hard at refining our skills so that we can make music with little or even no rehearsal. Just like doctors and lawyers and all kinds of other people, we work hard “behind the scenes” preparing for the moments we get on stage (or in the surgery or in front of the jury). I’m sure that Andy, Doug, Charlie, Josh and Julian spent at least as much time preparing on their own as they spent in rehearsal with the rest of us. Not to mention the years of study to master the instrument itself. Same for Matt. And Leslie — for conductors this situation is even more extreme: nobody gets unlimited time in front of an orchestra to “figure out” how to conduct. Conductors bring years of study and intense personal preparation into every movement of their baton.

Your question “how many rehearsals did you have?” was an innocent one, so I won’t harangue too long, but please, the next time you enjoy a piece of music, remember this. Yes, the musicians put this together in just a few rehearsals. Yes, that seems pretty amazing. But it’s not magic: it’s long hours of private preparation that make it possible. And if you hear about musicians striking for “better pay” remember that the hours of rehearsal that they get paid for are only the tip of an iceberg of practice room time that has brought them to a level of skill that makes those few rehearsals very productive. (End of soapbox.)

Again, my warm thanks for coming to today’s performance, for reading this blog, for being interested in what we do.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Jacque Harper

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