Happy New Year! But first, a little moan
Ahhhhh! The New Year's Day concert! A time for joining together to celebrate the dawn of a new year; one pregnant with promise, new challenges, and fresh adventures. A concert full of age old favourites - foot tappers harking back to a golden era of melody and dance. Right?
I would like to take this opportunity to highlight the New Year's Day concert plight of the middle voices of the orchestra. And, perhaps, also the double basses. And the bass trombone. Actually, everyone who is not a first violinist or cellist. But especially the second violins and violas.
With the exception of 26 bars (repeated in various keys) in Johann Strauss' Overture to Die Fledermaus, New Year's Day sees the second violins and violas locked in what can only be described as an unending sea - nay, an ocean - of the same rhythm repeated ad nauseam. While the first violins and cellos happily (smugly?) waltz away with their elegant, graceful melodies, the inner engine of the orchestra gets to play pretty much one rhythm for the whole evening. Like a nightmare that you cannot wake up from there lies before you pages and pages of crotchet rest, crotchet, crotchet.
You have to stay very concentrated, however, because as soon as your mind drifts a little you can be certain that you will miss a repeat sign, and as the music all looks the same on the page, you will spend the next 30 seconds (or what feels like five minutes) musically grappling around, desperately trying to find where you're supposed to be!
The height of the excitement for those of us in the viola and second violin sections (and the wind unfortunate enough to join us), is deciding if our pah-pahs (that's right - we seldom even get the oom of the pah-pah) should be played straight or in 'the Viennese Style' (swung)!
Thankfully, this year also in the programme was Britten's Soirées Musicales - an oasis of melody and varied rhythms in the midst of the oom-pah-pahing!
We were also joined by Grammy award winning Welsh soprano Rebecca Evans for a selection of arias. Rebecca was fabulous - I particularly enjoyed her Tipsy Polka - and was a pleasure to work with.
And so, 2013 is upon us and we have many world class and award winning artists with whom we will collaborate in the coming months. In 2013, take advantage of your National Orchestra; come along, be entertained, and engage with the cultural landscape of Cardiff - I assure you, you will not be disappointed.