“Barb, banjo?” was the comment at the end of an email. My friend Nancy was forwarding a call from the Bangor Symphony for a banjo player and bandoneon player for their spring concert.
“I just found out it’s Kurt Weill’s Kleine Dreigroschenmusik” Nancy wrote in a follow-up email. Well, that got my attention. Kleine Dreigroschenmusik is the overture for the Threepenny Opera written by Kurt Weill. Wouldn’t it be a trip to do that piece with an orchestra, thought I! So I sent off an inquiry. A couple of days later I was offered the post and the banjo headed to the shop for some much needed attention.
Because of Covid restrictions, it was a digital season for the orchestra. Initially they used plexiglass barriers along with spacing between musicians and whatever else provided for a safer environment. For this last concert of the seasosn the barriers were gone and a little less space between musicians was allowable but masks for non wind players were mandated and there was still no audience. The filmed performance was reminiscent of doing a last “tech” rehearsal for theater.
Digital necessities aside, my experience working with such a large ensemble of musicians was invigorating, and getting immersed in the Weill overture was fantastic. It was a great challenge to figure out the banjo part and making modifications as needed to get it to sound right. It did what I hoped it would: get the Covid cobwebs from not playing out of my head and give me some inspiration that was sorely needed. Mission accomplished.