modeled after a Margaret Lawrence piece
Our rehearsal room was a large wood-panelled hall in a community square. It doubled as a church hall when needed, several times weekly. Though brightly-lit with small, scattered lamps, it smelled worn and old and comforting like a grandmother’s embrace. The air was always thick with warmth, from the heaters or from the skins of many gathered people.
The first time I entered that hall I was already 14 years of age. The room was a net full of sound, shimmering rainbow notes and ugly deep-sea noises all jumbled together. Put any group of children together with a bunch of instruments and the resulting noise is never quite musical, at least not at first. Of course some did not care and only showed up because their parents felt it would “be good for them”. But I showed up that week, and every week after, because I hoped for more. I wanted to recreate the music of the old Viennese schools and the Baroque German masters, as best I could at the time, which was not very well.
But those were my first steps into real music.
My section was not good. We were loud, we were insensitive, we were abrasive. The notes that came out of our bells could never get along. We would never be able to recreate the creamy, sweet sound that I had imagined. The dissonant sounds were too thin to be heard clearly, and as loudly as the notes screamed and argued, they would never come to a conclusion, never be able to agree. At times the rehearsals were unbearable, when I had been stuck in that chair listening to the strings scratching tortuously away, hardly as musical as a cat clawing the scratching post. But I persevered, and the year passed like a sloth, and the next year came… I advanced to the higher level orchestra. At first I was awed by the level of this ensemble - was I even good enough to play with these people? But eventually I improved and I grew and now I am growing out of this group too.
I am 17 now, and one of the oldest of the students. Over the years I have progressed further, and now I find even the highest level of youth orchestra rehearsal tedious at times – as I got better, the group got worse. But strange, I still stay. Because who knows where I will be in a year, five years, ten; so these rehearsals, they must be savoured while I still have time. Because this is the place where my ideas began to be shaped and it is the place where my thoughts are still being perfected, chipped away here and there and remoulded in spots, not yet ready for the kiln. They never will be quite ready. So it is the place where I began, and where I am still beginning over and over again.