Traditionally, a modern symphony orchestra will arrange their strings (minus the bass section): 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello (from left to right in a semi-circle formation). More recently, in an effort to arrange the orchestra so that the violas are more clearly heard, an increasing number of conductors have adopted the Baroque seating: 1st violin, 2nd violin, cello, viola. Still, other conductors have desired the 2nd violins to be on the outside of the semi-circle and act as a more independent section; therefore, the arrangement is: 1st violin, viola, cello, 2nd violin. I have experienced several seating combinations throughout the years; I use the word "experience," because, as a musician, where you sit in the formation dramatically changes the "feel" of rehearsals and performances that particular orchestra.
Last week--my world was shattered. While rehearsing Haydn's "London Symphony" with the Butler Symphony Orchestra (where I sit in the 1st violin section), the conductor asked us to sit in "quartets" (1st violin, 2nd violin, viola, cello). I was no longer with a group of violinists all playing the same notes and moving their bows in the same direction; suddenly, I was sitting next to a cellist and a 2nd violinist. Once each of us found our new "home," the conductor gave us a cue to begin the fourth movement--we began and he walked away. In that moment, everything else faded away, but the music. My eyes began to look at other players around me and my body began to move in response to the energy that flowed from their instruments. In an instant, not only did my physical perspective change, but my aural perspective shifted; I was beginning to "lock-in" to how my musical line connected with those around me. The notes rang clearer and the independent lines began to connect in my mind unlike ever before. The voices around me asked a question and my instrument effortlessly answered. Somehow, these two worlds I love so dearly had merged: orchestral playing and chamber music. I could not help but smile. My face could not stop from laughing. Joy flowed from my heart and seeped into my instrument. The dream of breathing and playing as "one instrument," "one voice," "one organism" became a reality.
My overwhelming response: Surprise and awe. Who knew that moving to different seat in a classroom would change my life forever?!
“Music is the true breath of life. We eat so we won't starve to death. We sing so we can hear ourselves live.”
9/23/2014 10:57:16 pm
Interesting. I will share this with my violinist friends. Does this mean they might quit telling violist jokes?
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I live Carmel, Indiana. I have been married to my very supportive and loving husband, James Matthew King, for four years. The most important things to me are God, my family and friends. I am a violinist and violin instructor by profession; currently, I teach for three music programs, perform for weddings and with various orchestras around Indy, attend graduate school at Butler University, and work as the GA for the Butler Symphony Orchestra. My favorite color is purple and my favorite animal is the elephant.