Following our live recording of the Coronation Anthems program on tuesday night, the orchestra wasted no time in turning to the stage to do some small patching in three bars of the birthday ode for Queen Anne, as well as the first movement of the concert grosso, op. 3/no.2.
In the final bars of the trumpet/alto duet which opens the ode, the trumpet climbs to a stratospheric high d before the final cadence. Not an easy task for someone who hasn't had much sleep, spent the entire morning traveling and afternoon rehearsing. Naturally Lars wanted to get another take of this spot.
Once the hall was emptied the orchestra began. Three times we played the final few bars, but Seb couldn't get it the way he wanted it. Lars suggested we do something else for a second to give Seb a break. Upon returning to Seb's bit he still had trouble and there was a moment where we didn't know what to do. "Let's play the first movement of the concerto grosso once more and then we'll have one more go at it after," said Lars. We played the concerto. Turning around to Seb, we asked if he was ready for one more go. "I'm ready," he said.
This particular movement requires an element of delicacy in all the parts. As Alex Potter put it, "of the entire repertoire, I find this piece to be the most terrifying to sing." The accompanying instruments act as a unit, lining the music with transparent colour and solemn execution and incorporating a bassoon would focus the attention of the listener in the wrong places. Instead of participating in the patching of Seb's bit, I got to watch, and listen to, the whole process unfold.
It would be hard to find a television drama series which could match the suspense hanging over us when Seb took the final go with the strings in the birthday ode. Under incredible pressure, Seb nailed the solo to the wall. Once the sound had died out from the final cadence, Lars put his finger up to remind us to keep silent, a big grin developing on his face. "Well, unfortunately, we'll have to do it again because the violas' intonation was terrible here, here, and here," he said in the cheeky tone he uses when everything goes right.
For a few seconds, maybe a minute, as the orchestra burst out in fits of laughter there was a golden moment. It was as if all of the hard work of the past week stopped weighing upon us; that we were just few friends having a laugh.