It's Post-Concert Series again! A week after we rehearsed and performed a concert of Final Fantasy music, I was back with the Metropolitan Festival Orchestra rehearsing for Star Wars! It was a "Live in concert" performance, where The Force Awakens was screened behind the orchestra, and we provide live music to the film. It was super exciting and was only my second time performing in a project such as this - the first was Harry Potter in July earlier this year.
Like Final Fantasy, the music to Star Wars isn't difficult to learn and listen to - the theme is so famous the whole world practically knows it! But projects like these make the preparation more enjoyable - I was watching the film while going through my part! How awesome is that? Of course, I couldn't enjoy it wholly because I had to concentrate on the music, my entries, orchestra entries, etc.., but during tacet movements (which were more than Harry Potter), I could actually watch the film for a couple of minutes before getting back to work.
The challenging parts were again, the snare drum parts with their 4-stroke ruffs, especially when they occur consecutively in the main theme. Getting the 4-stroke ruffs to sound consistent was also difficult - I still have a long way to go, but I was trying a different method of practicing. This method (for my hands and mind at least) was to just pick up the sticks and do a single 4-stroke ruff, set them down, and then repeat the process. This trains my body and mind to play and hear exactly how I want it to go, and also to get my playing to be more consistent and accurate whenever I pick up sticks to play.
Another challenge was actually the setup and multiple instrument changes. Because of the way the music is written/arranged, there were some instruments that were shared or doubled on - snare drums, keyboards (meaning marimba, vibraphone, glockenspiel, and xylophone), suspended cymbals, tam-tams and so on. For the majority, the section was situated where they would normally play. I was on bass drum and my counterparts were on suspended cymbal, tam-tam, and keyboards mostly. But there were a few movements where we had to do quick changes. During one of them, I was mostly on toms but had to do quick changes to snare drum, and then triangle and ratchet further in the movement. As some of these changes happen almost instantaneously, the setup of the section was crucial and had to be precise and compact. Practicing that move was, in a way, difficult as well. We had our first rehearsal in a different venue from the concert and because of that, the positions and distances of our setup changes as well. As a percussionist, it is important to foresee any challenges in instrument changes and/or movement to a different instrument. It's kind of like sight-reading, where you have to look ahead all the time, but this time, the whole body is physically involved as well.
In all honesty, from the 3 concerts we gave, the first night was my poorest performance. And what made it worse was that we had the largest audience on the first night! I was disappointed in myself for screwing up but I made sure subsequent nights were far better than the first. It doesn't make up for it, but at least I played better for the different sets of audience, in the hopes of serving the music well too.
But that aside, I think watching a film with "live" music is an incredible experience! Even while playing, I was always tempted to turn back and see what's happening on the screen. It's a little hard though, because we're situated at the back just by the screen and we have to crane our necks the whole time! It's kind of like booking front row seats in a cinema - not the best way to watch a movie! But the element of "live" music adds so much life to the film - something even I take for granted when watching films.
If there is ever another chance, I highly recommend catching an "in concert" production! From what I know now, there is Harry Potter happening in January next year, so do yourself a favour and check it out!
As always, thank you all for reading! If and when I am involved in such future projects, I'll be sure to share my experiences with you guys. If you have great ideas on practicing and preparation as well, do write them in the comments - sharing is caring after all :) Stay safe and be well!