This morning I attended a rehearsal of the MO above the garage at Norbert and Carolyn’s studio in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood. Seven musicians — 4 strings and 3 horns — practiced Beethoven’s Septet, which is to be performed in a week, Sunday, March 20. I attended and, yes, attended — cocked my ear, that is, which is not so keen as it once was (though not yet ingrown with too much hair) and noted how the ensemble practiced.
I was there to take photos for this website, but it was hard to focus on the seeing at the expense of the hearing. What I saw and heard, finally, was a group that was practicing what it preached — a desire to become a well-honed and convivial machine. These musicians, in short, clearly liked each other, listened to each other, and were intent on making music to the best of their ability.
Going through the Septet, they halted and corrected the performance pretty regularly. The players weren’t peremptory: they didn’t bark out corrections but proceeded with deference. Shouldn’t this phrase be Sforzando? Shouldn’t this passage be more distinctly a march tempo? I’ve always done this movement more slowly! Can we try measure 92 once more?
There was joshing too and a signal lack of tension. Beethoven was no slouch: he was not easy listening or heavy metal. The score’s notations allowed plenty of room for interpretation, and each musician was keen on getting the score right, for him or herself, for the ensemble, and for the audience.
When I saw, and heard, how the group practiced, I realized gratefully that despite the venue where they practiced — a comfy studio over a garage — they were anything but a garage band. No parents had kicked them out of the house to save their sanity. No teens had gone up garret to escape adult authority. No dope was smoked (that I saw, smelled). No raunch was on display.
The MO is a practiced and well-oiled machine. A machine that you can hear humming next Sunday, March 20 — and be grateful for the hard work and joy that go into each performance.