Bright lights shining down from the beams
The stage is set, we are waiting ready,
The orchestra stirs as the choir murmurs
Instruments chirping, strings humming steady.
The crowd is buzzing before the fall
Of the baton to signal the crash of the drums,
That is when I will slam my hands down
On piano keys, the O Fortuna thrums.
For now I wait, stomach in tight knots,
The air is stuck in my throat as I try
To relax, the pulse of the silence deep.
All the others do the same, we all sigh.
As the conductor rises, the crowd grows still
Then it begins, the mighty music’s grandiose thrill.
In the end of my sophomore year of college at the University of North Alabama (just over a year ago), I had one of the most exciting moments of my life. I was asked to play the second piano in a performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, a large cantata for soloists, choirs, and orchestra, which includes two pianos, that deals mainly with life’s pleasures (definitely not a religious or holy text). You see, I had sung in the Collegiate Singers choir for the entirety of my freshman year, and I was in the Florence Camerata, but after I changed my major from Music (Piano Performance) to Professional Writing, I decided to take more time with writing. However, I was asked to play in this performance and I was both honored and terrified. I had played the piano for ten years, but the biggest performance I ever made on the instrument was a few small recitals. I understood that I would not be alone on stage, but there were a couple of passages where I was the only one playing with the chorus and the anxiety was enormous. I practiced the music and when it came time for the concert, the only thing that I was not ready for was the crowded audience. Thank God for the stage lights! With those suns blaring in my face I could not see the audience and it made me feel as though I were in another rehearsal. The concert was amazing and a great success and I received compliments on my playing from a couple different people (only the people who knew my parts from the rehearsals, and my family and friends to whom I had shown the parts). I was a massive relief to have it done with, and a thrilling joy to have taken part in something so awesome. I had never played in an orchestra before and it was a dream I had. It was one check off my bucket list.
Carmina Burana is a very interesting piece of music that every classical musician has at least heard of. We have all heard the “O Fortuna” (it is the first short movement which is used in many movies and commercials), but as for the other twenty four movements, they are just as wonderful and brilliant. The only thing that might drive one crazy is the repetition, where there are several verses with the same exact music in each one played again and again; but in some cases, these parts are so great, it is worth hearing over again. The colors move across a palette, where it begins mighty and dramatic, and becomes more playful, then more subdued, then energetic and celebratory, then it returns to the thrilling “O Fortuna” for a close. The instrumentation is immense, using a larger that usual orchestra, and requires I believe three choirs with soprano, tenor, and bass soloists. It is over an hour long, but it is a piece of music that every musician should hear from beginning to end at least once.
The poem above was a “sonnet” (certainly not Shakespearean) I wrote in my Genres of Creative Writing my junior year. It describes my feeling on stage just before the conductor raised the baton. Like I said, it was both awesome and terrifying, but it was an experience I would never regret. Would I do it again? Maybe with the right opportunity or music. For now, I am too busy with writing to focus on performing in concerts; however, I love to attend them and music will always be passion of mine, even if it is not my career.
I am so thankful to have had this experience.