The process was difficult and frustrating for many reasons. It’s hard to sit socially distanced from each other. There were plexiglass shields around wind players, protectively placed there but which also made hearing neighbors a virtual impossibility and playing together a total guessing game. Most players were rotated off more than a week at a time, thus eliminating a continuity that we rely on to play as an ensemble.
BUT. Some silver lining things happened within these parameters. There was an urgency to these recordings and to only getting literally one second chance. I think people listened more intently, aiming to leave less to chance. Instructions from the conductor and feedback from the recording booth had a different focus and were more concise and to the point. As a result, there were some memorable moments I happily point to— performances by the orchestra’s own soloists, some passages in the Ravel week and Beethoven 1.
What made me proudest, however, was how musicians took ownership of the process, both as a group and individually, to get the the job done. We dialogued with each other more and made cooperative decisions. We voiced concerns to make sure we had what we needed. We foot-clapped when something special happened. But mostly we were proactive in a way that the moment asked of us. I LOVED IT and I loved watching it happen.
After the holidays we will continue with the same process for the remainder of the season with an opportunity to keep fine-tuning things. What I’m hoping most for is that even when things return to normal our ability to influence our output remains intact the way we discovered we could this fall.