As a musician who plays in an orchestra, work may not always require you to play what you were trained to do in music school. I've had an interesting few weeks here in Honolulu. We have had one traditional masterworks program and a few pops programs which were quite varied and fun. One week, we played with a Queen cover band. Another week I was paid to play Harry Potter 4, and sort of watch it backwards. This past week I used my knowledge of a Harry James vibrato while playing trills half valved in a harmon mute on a world premier oboe concerto written for an oboe made of a traditional Hawaiian tree wood. And we played many education shows.
I'll start with Harry Potter, since I'm sure everyone wants to hear about that. I have never read a Harry Potter book nor watched any movie until 3 years ago when we started playing them here in Hawaii, but I've watched 1-4 backwards. And I usually miss the main action scenes because I play trumpet and guess what, the trumpet always plays a lot in the flying and quidditch scenes. I have also played all different parts in the score, first, second and third depending on the season. John Williams wrote the music for movies 1-3. Patrick Doyle wrote the music for the 4th movie. I can tell you as the movies have progressed, the music has become less melodic and there is more of a use of atonal chords and shorter fragments of music to make large impacts. I find the movies very interesting and I am actually interested in watching them properly and I do want to read the books. I've said this for three years and haven't done it yet...so we'll see.
Our education show for the last couple of seasons is called the Symphony of the Hawaiian Birds. There is also a movie that I get to watch backwards and again, when the birds take flight or there is drama due to climate change, the trumpets are playing so I miss those action shots. It is a very cute show with minimalistic cartoons and drawings by school children on island. All of the movements are written by local composers to Hawaii. It's very educational and deals with issues of climate change and how that affects the birds and what we can do as humans to help preserve many of the Hawaii birds and the environment.
Last week we had a world premier of an Oboe Concerto written by a local to Hawaii composer, Jon Magnussen. The piece is called Na Kau 'Elua. This translates to Two Seasons. The two seasons in Hawaii are Wet and Dry. The piece was written for the Hawaii Oboe Legacy Project which is an actual oboe made of Kauila wood from the Kauila tree on Kauai. The wood of this tree is very dense and will sink in water. The wood used comes from a tree that was about 300 years old. This tree was damaged in a hurricane in the 1980's so it wasn't chopped down to make an oboe! Our principal oboist Scott Janusch played beautifully (as he always does). The concerto used many Hawaiian nature sounds, traditional Hawaiian and western percussion instruments, Hawaiian chant and an array of special affect sounds on many instruments including the trumpets. I hope it gets much programming. It was a very thoughtful and beautiful piece.
A few weeks ago, we played the music of Queen. Both shows were sold out. As a classical musician, I rarely play for rock bands. It's very exciting to do these types of shows. There are many different types of lighting that happen throughout the show. There's fake smoke which makes a cool haze in the bright lights. And I realized during the rehearsal I actually knew way more of the songs than I thought.
Symphony orchestras aren't just performing traditional programs these days. There is a lot of variety. Sometimes you end up drawing off of your knowledge of pop culture to do your job well. My formal schooling didn't have a movie music class where you sit down and play with a large distracting screen in front of you. I first heard about Harry Potter working at Barnes & Noble one summer and having to work the day one of the books came out. The song Bohemian Rhapsody was popular (to me) because of Wayne's World when I was a kid. And I certainly didn't know anything about Hawaiian Birds or Trees prior to playing in the Hawaii Symphony. It's all a gentle reminder to keep your eyes and ears open. You never know what you might need when.