Playing Music - Some Thoughts
Life in an opera orchestra is great. You get to hear great music from the masters, and great singing. At Welsh National Opera (WNO) where I work, we are essentially a touring company taking opera productions around the UK and occasionally abroad. When we are in a season, we will generally be presenting 3 operas comprising of 2 performance each of 2 of the operas, and 1 of the other. This season for instance we are doing a show called 'Chorus' which does what it says on the tin, 'The Magic Flute' and Hansel and Gretel.
The only problem is that one is playing the same notes for over 3 months, from the beginning of the rehearsal period to the end of the tour. In the show 'Chorus' we are required to play a multitude of different styles from the Hallelujah Chorus, to 'Make Our Garden Grow' from Bernstein's Candide, via Verdi, Shostakovich, Britten and Weill to name but a few. As you can see from the photo however, sometimes we are not required for a great deal of time within an opera (Magic Flute in this case)!
With my job at WNO, this pattern is repeated in the Autumn and Spring seasons. Seasons vary, and some are busier that others, but the question arises of how to keep ones playing in good condition?
I make a 'Touring Pack' that I take with me on tour, which contains material from various different sources in a clear plastic display book. There is a collection of the usual suspects including Arban, Schlossberg, Clarke technical studies etc.I have also included various studies (Charlier, Bitsch, and some little gems from The Soloist's Companion, see photo).
It is important to continue to find new and interesting studies to play, so that one doesn't get locked into just playing technical exercises. No one wants to listen to those!!
Lip flexibilities and other such exercises keep the focus of the embouchure, and flow studies (Chicowicz VC1, and Clarke No.1 chromatics) keep a check on the flow of the air.
It is important for students of the trumpet to have a varied practise routine too. Change from the Clarke tech studies to Vizzutti, or Gekker. Alongside Charlier and Arban studies, play something that will stretch you in a tonality sense. The Vizzutti blue book, or the Thomas Stevens 'Contemporary Interval Studies' are excellent for these. There is also the trusty 'Red Hymn Book'. These simple vocalise studies are invaluable short exercises to extend the beauty of our sound, phrasing and breathing, endurance and range, They are good for our spiritual wellbeing! Just like practise!!