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October 12, 2011

The last week has been a pretty tough one. Moving to a new place is never easy. Add to that constant rain and a foreign language, and what you get is not so much adventure as a recipe for misery and illness. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say that nothing seemed to be going right for the first six days I was here. And then Monday came, a day I was looking forward to because, as I understood it, the Uni Duisburg-Essen Student Orchestra had an open rehearsal that night. In spite of the terrible cold I was fighting, I decided to suck it up and make the trip to Essen. I figured I could at the very least practice my German along the way. When I got there I was told that the wind section was probably already full, and that no more oboes would be needed, thank you very much. But luckily for me the second oboist was absent that night, and I was invited to play along in the rehearsal. I laughed when I saw they were playing Brahms, which is about as German as I could have hoped for (or so I thought!). As I (tried to) mention in yesterday’s LTTS, I hadn’t even considered the fact that it was going to be my first ever non-English language orchestra rehearsal. When it began I was so excited by this realization that I could barely stay focused. It was ridiculously delightful to hear the conductor say words like “schneller” or “langsamer”, or just to hear him count things with “eins, zwei, eins, zwei”. But most of all it was just amazing to be playing German music in German with a bunch of Germans. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It even seemed to cure my cold! Music has never affected me so thoroughly and so instantly before Monday night.

Okay, so that was Monday night. Weirdly enough, I had read online the same time I found out about that orchestra that a different orchestra rehearsed at the exact same place on Tuesday nights. I decided to give it another try. And sure enough, EXACTLY THE SAME THING HAPPENED AGAIN. They didn’t need another oboist, but one was absent so I was allowed to fill in. And, believe it or not, the music was somehow EVEN MORE GERMAN: Wagner’s Overture to Rienzi and Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. When I pointed out how hilarious this was to me, the flute player told me it was just a goofy coincidence, that they don’t usually play only German composers. Yeah right.

It was a pretty amazing two nights, especially because I haven’t gotten to play with a symphony orchestra for a few years. And now I’m a substitute for both ensembles! Plus I learned some fun facts, like how the word for brass in German is Blech! Or how German orchestras tune to an A of 443 Hz, not the 440 Hz I’m used to. When the oboist Tuesday night found out I didn’t know this she gave me a look as if to say “what the heck are you doing here, kid?” This especially surprised me because I’ve always been fond of the dark tone that comes from German oboists, making the idea that they actually play sharper pretty counterintuitive. I have some investigating to do.

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