March 13th saw me performing with the NUS Symphonic Orchestra (NUSSO) in the concert Voyage to the Orient. I started practicing with them near end of January, right through February till the concert yesterday, nearly twice every week. Putting aside travelling time, commitment issues and how I ended up playing with them, I actually enjoyed it all very, very much.
I have to admit that prior to this, I didn't think much of this orchestra. (Woohoo, alright, NUSSO members, you may smack me if you read this.) I had attended 2 of their concerts and both times I was, sadly, disappointed. Perhaps it was the pieces, or the venue, or it really boiled down to the ability of the members - I've always felt there was a missing element, a core pillar not present within the orchestra. There were too many things wrong and too many things imperfect. It felt like the orchestra's ability was not stretched. I have to say that it irked me.
Frankly, I still feel this way about the orchestra, though now I've played with them. Of course I don't really have any right to judge or criticize them, and you may stop reading if it is really making you feel unsettled.
During one of the last few rehearsals at the UCC Hall, for the first time, I had a better glimpse of how this orchestra might really be like. Never mind the errors, never mind the lack of technicality here and there, never mind the imperfections - for that few hours, I thought I tasted musicality and emotion. It is odd and I may be wrong, but at that point in time, I felt like I truly understood what it means to play "music" - a flow of feelings, sounds and images, not just notes anymore. It might be because of the piece and the acoustics of the hall, but somehow the orchestra was a little more solid. For that piece, at least, I think we've managed to literally put the piece right into the laps of the audience. The pillar still isn't fully erected, but I can actually see the semblance of it and sense it.
Although I (also) have gripes about the conductor, it felt really nice performing under his baton - a warm, safe and happy feeling - a bit like returning home.
Not to mention the percussionists were wonderful people, very fun to play and chat with. It actually reminded me of what it was like playing with the band in Secondary school. A true taste of nostalgia. Although I had to spend a lot of time counting rests, it was an experience playing in an orchestra, one I enjoyed very much and which rekindled my interest in percussion (and music, in general).
Thank you, NUSSO, I truly appreciate the experience.