I have to sightread a concert tomorrow. I can tell you, this was not the plan. I'm fairly good at reading, at least for things inside my comfort zone, so I ought to be able to survive. I've always been good at reading, even when I was a beginner, to the extent that for many things I've wondered if practice has any effect on the quality of my playing. Still, even if the notes are not a problem, that doesn't mean that rehearsal is useless. There are always questions of interpretation and ensemble, not to mention basic matters like is this in two or four, are the repeats good, what's going on during this rest so that I can feel confident on the entry. There are always questions, and even once through can address most of them. So yeah, I'd prefer to not sightread the show. Optimal for me, for the kind of amateur groups I play with, is one or two rehearsals.
And that's how I set up the performance tomorrow. I got asked to fill in on 2nd, I could make the concert and the final rehearsal, I said yes, I showed up to the rehearsal... and the principal player didn't make it. And he'd carefully collected all the 2nd parts from the librarian, in preparation for me coming. Uhh... I hung around for awhile, reading bassoon cues off a trombone part, hastily printing out things off of IMSLP, so at least I've heard a bit of a couple of pieces, but it was almost entirely a write-off. (And I'd missed my son's concert to be there, very annoying.) Tomorrow I'll have to have my wits about me. I hope the principal shows up, and brings the music with him.
This is nothing compared with what my teacher had to do. He sometimes subs in our local professional symphony, typically playing contra. This august ensemble is celebrating a major anniversary, and so managed to score an invite to play in Carnegie Hall at the Spring for Music festival. Taking a symphony on the road is a massive undertaking, but also a massive opportunity. They did tons of publicity, in the end convincing more than 1000 locals to take a trip to NY with them. (I hope they thought to get a cut of the travel packages!) And they ran a very interesting program, full of new pieces and commissions that they've done. Complicated pieces. But no worries, they're pros, they've had a year to plan and prepare, and scheduled a couple of local concerts with the same program, to benefit locals who couldn't make the trip. Well, the principal bassoonist had a bit of a health issue, so just in case, they had my teacher sit next to him during the last rehearsal, looking over his shoulder, to cover the unlikely event that he'd be required to sub. The principal played the local shows fine, but didn't receive clearance to fly. And so, my teacher ended up playing principal in the Carnegie Hall concert, a historic occasion for the orchestra. After watching a rehearsal and single soundcheck. I'm sure it went wonderfully, but jeez, talk about pressure.