Count On It

Writing about art from one’s own experience creating it can be tricky. One can lose perspective – and the reader – if not careful.

But the viola section in an orchestra can be a tricky place to begin with and it offers a unique vantage point from which to see life and music in a completely different context. Sunday’s lesson, for me? Mind my own business and count.

First off, for context, a joke: “How is lightening like a violist’s fingers?” Neither one strikes in the same place twice.

This past Sunday, the Greenwich Village Orchestra kicked off its season, with a performance of the Overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart, that same composer’s Concerto for Bassoon, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2 “Little Russian.”

The Greenwich Village Orchestra

The GVO is a semi-professional orchestra and plays six concerts a season, primarily in the auditorium at Washington Irving High School off of Union Square. We’re a ragtag bunch – students, professional musicians, doctors, journalists, stay-at-home moms – all coming together to make beautiful music. When it works, it works well.

Let us, however, return to the viola section and Sunday’s concert.

The violas sit to the conductor’s right in a traditional set-up – in between the second violins and the cellos, who seated on the outside. The invisible boundary that separates us is sometimes a battle line – with the violas literally and figuratively caught between high and low, dutifully churning out the middle voice. We all get along, but the violas are kind of the Jan Brady of the string section.

So we normally band together: us against them.

Things were going swimmingly Sunday – flying through the Mozart pieces and working our way through the Tchaikovsky. Counting (1… 2… 1… 2… 1… 2…) and tapping my foot waiting for the next entrance.

Then the two players on the stand behind me started playing on a rest. I shook my head quietly. “Pity,” I thought, before realizing that I had counted wrong and should have been playing myself.

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