My Date With the Symphony

Just before rehearsal. My station is to the left of the harp.

“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.

The tenor banjo and the score


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