Try Standing Next to a Famous Model, Have Your Photo Taken and Try to Think You Look Good...
How do you think you'd fare? Would it be a picture you'd want to show other people? or something you'd hide away, relishing in the moment you were there with the "beautiful people" but not something you want anyone else to see.
Consider how you would feel at the moment the camera clicks and you'll have some idea what it is like as a composer to share a concert with Mozart, Haydn AND Beethoven. Last night the Boulder Symphony Orchestra performed the US Premier of the 3rd movement of Symphony No. 1, a little piece entitled "You Can't Catch Rabbits With Drums." It was sandwiched in between Mozart's Symphony No.32 and Haydn's Symphony No. 90. The second half of the concert was Beethoven's First.
Albeit the other three works were classical era pieces and mine is definitely a 21st century composition - complete with a rocking percussion line, it's still a bit daunting to be placed among such illustrious company. John Adams recently posted on his blog -the Earbox about sharing the stage with Beethoven's Violin Concerto (with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra), so it seems my situation is not unique. It doesn't make it any less daunting.
I hate to admit I wasn't really cognizant of what else was in the program until the night of the performance. I'd been told; I'd even posted it on Facebook --still, I hadn't put two and two together. It wasn't until I was in the Pre-concert talk and the conductor was talking about the program that I realized the company my music was in. Cold sweat comes to mind. My wife was listening to me speak about my music and said I didn't look nervous at all, but truly all I wanted to do at that point was crawl under a rock.
Come concert time I sat listening to the Mozart without breathing. My wife nudged me as the audience applauded and said, "Breathe. It won't do you any good to pass out." I hadn't realized I had stopped... So I took a couple of quick breaths and prepared myself for the next piece - MINE.
The orchestra played well, really well. While I don't think I started breathing again until it was all over, half way through I did have a pretty big grin on my face. There is nothing quite like having something you spent months on come to life in front of hundreds of people (and it was a really good crowd - but then again, the orchestra was playing the three great Masters). When it was all done I remember having to wipe a tear from my eye due to the joy or the excitement (or perhaps the lack of oxygen).
After the applause and the Haydn symphony, there was intermission where I was put into the spotlight again, talking to concert goers who wished to tell me what they thought. It was a great experience. Numerous people commented on how much they liked the music, ranging from "I like the driving rhythm so much better than the pompous Haydn" to "It was so different than most modern music which is difficult to even follow, yet alone like. Yours was really good."
During the second part of the concert, Beethoven's First, I did breathe, sigh and relax, settled into my seat and really enjoyed the music. Although, by this point in my career I have reviewed multiple dozens of concerts, I couldn't tell you how well the orchestra played the Beethoven. As I look back it feels like probably the best performance of it I've ever heard, but I am in no position to judge. My head just wasn't in that frame of mind.
Post concert there were more compliments, drinks (with more comments) and the following day even more comments, not just from concert goers but from others who had been unable to attend and were told by friends that they had missed a great debut. Wow, my music has even made it to the realm of word of mouth.
I have no idea what all this means, other than I realized I can survive for 20 minutes without oxygen. It was a good night. The next time my music is performed I may still be daunted by the company it keeps - and people may make comparisons between my music and the Masters... but maybe that isn't as bad as I had thought.
I now have a picture of myself standing next to some world class models, and while it's obvious I should work out more and perhaps get a better haircut, the grin on my face makes the inclusion of my picture worthy of the company.