Issue: January-March 2012
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20 Years ago in Bandworld
Kaleid Conducting for a Soloist

by Ray Devilbiss Bio
Vol.7 , #3, p.34 (January - February 1992)

For conductors to take a band “through the paces” in a spirited rendition of an overture, or other major work, is by no means an easy task. Even so, conductors are required to do it, and, given ample rehearsal time, most do a creditable job. Accompanying soloists, however, is a formidable task for many conductors. Even when sufficient rehearsal time is available, all to often the end result is a second rate performance. For the most part, mediocre accompaniments are rarely the fault of soloists. Rather, they are due to a lack of conductorial experience, and the very evident inability of many conductors to establish and sustain a “rapport” with soloists.

Performers in accompanying ensembles are expected to master rhythms, notes, fingering techniques, et al, and should be informed by conductors about balances, tempi, dynamics and phrasing indigenous to the accompaniment. Ensemble precision is necessary to provide a good accompaniment. There must also be “empathy” between conductor and soloist which melds their distinctive musical personalities into aesthetic unity, so that both are of one mind about interpretation of the solo work. When that kind of “rapport” prevails, conductors can get along much more comfortably with the often difficult task of persuading fifty or more musicians to provide the soloist with a sympathetic accompaniment.

Two sets of suggestions are hereafter listed to assist conductors and soloists toward achievement of an artistic performance; first, external — non-musical, and second, internal — musical. The first is concerned with protocol, a most important part of solo performance, and the second with musical aspects of the performance.

Non-Musical Suggestions

1. Should the soloist need a music stand, arrange for it to be carried on and off stage by another person, with as little confusion as possible.

2. If student soloists are performing members of an ensemble, try to program solos at a time most advantageous for securing an acceptable performance. Caution student soloists to rest as necessary prior to playing the solo.

3. When it is possible to do so, soloists who are ensemble members should be permitted to exit the stage one number before the solo. In any event, it is best to follow entrance and exit procedures hereafter listed.

4. Conductor should exit the stage at conclusion of number prior to the solo performance.

5. While conductor and soloist are off stage, a first chair player should re-tune the ensemble to give the soloist an opportunity to check pitch levels.

6. When entering the stage, soloist should precede the conductor.

7. Ensemble members should applaud at entrance of soloist. Doing so will assure an appropriate response from the audience.

8. When the solo has concluded, conductor and ensemble members should join with the audience in applause.

9. At the conclusion of the solo, guest artists often shake hands with the conductor, and possibly principal clarinetist or violinist, before acknowledging applause from the audience. Student soloists should be advised to follow this procedure.

10. When soloist exits during prolonged applause, conductor remains on stage, and, as applause continues, signals soloist to return for further recognition.

11. As applause begins to fade, conductor exits stage immediately after the soloist, even although the latter may not have been recognized accompanying ensemble by asking its members to stand and share in public recognition.

12. Student soloist should be schooled in this protocol, and also admonished not to turn away from an audience too soon after applause begins. The audience might take this as a signal to cease applauding, unnecessarily so.

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