This blog was written on Sunday, April 14 the day before the Boston Marathon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected who were at the Marathon on April 15.

PREPARING FOR A MARATHON – MUSIC THAT IS

by Amy Dennison

 In Cincinnati if you talk about a marathon in May everyone assumes you are referring to the Flying Pig marathon on May 5. Well, there’s another one, the day before on May 4.  And that would be our Cincinnati Communitiy Orchestra concert that will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Church of the Saviour United Methodist.

 Why is this a music marathon? Like a marathon, we are taking weeks to prepare. We train every Monday and most of us are playing music that challenges us in ways we have never experienced before.  We are performing two of the most well known orchestral works from the 20th century – Gustav Holst’s The Planets and Gustav Mahler’s  amazing Symphony No. 1. Performing both these pieces on the same concert creaes the aura of a marathon – a 26 miler one at that.

 We have expanded our orchestra by about 10 musicians to accommodate the expanded colors heard in both of these compositions. The length of the compositions is also challenging. And hardest of all, there are long stretches of playing where you can’t stop and take a breather. Just like a marathon. We also encounter lots dips and swerves in the music that requires very fast fingers, bows and mouths.  And then there are passages of long notes at the extreme top of the instruments that require a lot of air, breath support and focus. The concentration required to perform these works is probably the most difficult for most of us. The music is physically and psychologically exhausting. And here’s the kicker: these two compositions are so well known that they are very popular with melodies that are very hummable. So no hiding behind unknown tunes!

 Does it sound like I’m whining? I think I speak for all the members of the orchestra when I say we are so excited to perform these works that all of us are practicing harder than usual. We can’t wait to share our hard work, enthusiasm and talents for everyone to hear. This is an opportunity that comes once in a lifetime for community musicians and all of us are pumped about playing for you on May 4!

Amy Dennison is an oboist for the Cincinnati Community Orchestra. You can find her blog at http://www.oboeamy.wordpress.com/.