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Tonight, even though we’re on break for school holidays, we had a special Symphonic Band rehearsal with guest conductor, Laszlo Marosi. He is a Hungarian conductor who teaches at the University of Florida and has worked with ensembles all over the world. He talked a bit about how he has worked in dangerous places in the world too, and wishes he could convince people to put down weapons and pick up musical instruments instead. “Music makes people better” is his guiding principle, and he was named a UNESCO Ambassador of Peace for the work he has done.

One of our flute players wasn’t able to be there so I took her solo part in the beautiful piece, ‘Perthshire Majesty’. I was glad I had played through her part this afternoon on a whim, thinking “I guess it would be good to vaguely know this in case R is ever away…”

I might have been more reluctant to accept the part if I’d known Laszlo was going to put our conductor, Luke, through his paces quite so thoroughly, using the six or seven bars that just feature solo flute, clarinet and saxophone doing a sort of trio. It’s the phrase from about :40 to 1:00 in this recording (featuring soprano sax, not clarinet though), and Laszlo would stop us just before the full band came in, every time. We must have worked on that bit for about 20 minutes alone.

After my heart slowed back to its normal pace, my face stopped burning and I realised I didn’t sound too bad, I rather enjoyed the whole thing. I felt sorry for everyone else in the band who had to sit there, instruments cooling, while we repeated the phrase again and again, as Laszlo tweaked Luke’s work, always in pursuit of the little details that would bring out the colour in the music. But it was a fascinating rehearsal (not least because we got to watch Luke squirm, poor guy), showing how even the tiniest movement or gesture from a conductor can totally change the way people play and the overall sound of the music.

We also played through ‘Greensleeves’ with another conductor getting tips from Lazslo, then finished off with ‘Don Ricardo’, with Lazslo conducting. He threw his whole body, face and voice into it, pulling out the passion and emotion and spurring us on. If anything, the evening showed us all how complicated conducting is, how much you have to communicate and, really, how much of a performance it is.

Really looking forward to regular rehearsals starting up again next week. I’m so glad Monte encouraged me to join the band, it really is a highlight of my week. I wonder how much of Lazslo’s instruction we’ll retain. Hopefully we’ll all recall the joy of making music, and not just doing it “like in a factory” – he spoke of a visit to the Yamaha factory in Japan, watching a guy make flutes, and even though he was making beautiful instruments that would be used to make beautiful music, how the guy couldn’t even stop to say hello because he had a quota to fill. “We don’t want to make music like that, like ‘I need to make a hundred flutes today’ or ‘I need to play a hundred F sharps today’ and then I’m done. We are human beings, we need to feel the music.”

Here’s me with the rest of the flute section at last term’s concert (I stole the pic from Jessie’s Facebook page…thanks Jessie, if you’re reading this! 😄 ):