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Connect Orchestra Blog - Amy Cutler

Amy Cutler has been a member of Scottish Opera’s Connect Orchestra for 2 years. She plays First Trumpet and is also studying music at the University of Glasgow. In her blog she gives us an insight into what it's like being part of the Connect programme.



18th March 2012

So after a month away from all the action at Connect, we were all reunited for an intensive weekend of rehearsals and performances of Copland’s The Second Hurricane. Unlike operas by Mozart, Copland writes really interesting music for trumpets (with one of his most famous pieces being Fanfare for the Common Man) so the weekend looked like it was going to be a good one.


The weekend began at 10am on Friday morning when we were joined by the Connect Chorus who had been away rehearsing (and memorising!) their complex music whilst we have been practising ours. The months of hard work seemed to have paid off though as the singers all sounded fantastic as we worked our way through two of the scenes in the opera. After lunch, we began to rehearse the rest of the opera and finished the day just before 9pm with a run-through of the entire opera. There were a few sticky sections in the run-through – mostly due to the fact the we, the orchestra, were so distracted by watching and listening to the singers that we kept missing our entries and got a bit lost as to where we were in the music! There was plenty to fix but that could all wait until Saturday morning – Chris could see that we were all exhausted so he sent us home a bit early so that we could get some much needed sleep.


Saturday morning began at 10am when we received notes from Chris about what we had to do to make the music sound better. There were plenty of notes for everyone as the performance the previous night had been nowhere near perfect, so once we had all scribbled “notes to self” on our music, we were ready to join up with the singers again for some more rehearsing. After lunch, we spent the afternoon doing two full dress rehearsals of the whole opera – overall, they went significantly better than the night before and everything was starting to look really professional with extra sound effects and lighting being added. It’s still hard for me to believe that most of the singers in the Connect Chorus are younger than I am – the principal roles were sung extremely well and they were just so consistent every time we rehearsed.


We were all allowed a lie-in on Sunday morning while the Connect Chorus had a few final rehearsals before the performances and we all joined up at 2pm for one final run-through of the opera before the two sold-out shows. As the audience filed into the hall for the first performance, I couldn’t deny that I felt nervous – you would think that after 12 years of playing the trumpet I would no longer feel nervous but as much as I try to ignore it, I always do. I knew that I could play my part well so tried to dismiss the nerves. The first performance began and everything looked and sounded brilliant. The audience loved the performance and cheered loudly as the principal singers took their well-deserved bow. There was time to grab a quick bite to eat before the second and final performance at 6pm and the entire cast and orchestra excelled themselves as the intensive weekend came to an end and we all gave everything we had to put on another excellent show. I thoroughly enjoyed playing music by Copland as I have always enjoyed his music and I hope to play more in the future.


In a few weeks we will be getting together for another fun-filled weekend as we put together some Bizet – hopefully it will be as successful as this weekend was!


29 January

29 January was the first Connect rehearsal of the New Year – it seems like ages since we have all played together, but there was little time to catch up with everyone this morning as we dived head first into a rehearsal of extracts from Scottish Opera’s current production of Hansel and Gretel, conducted by our wonderful conductor, Chris Gray. Chris then put us through our paces for an hour before handing over to Scottish Opera’s Music Director, Francesco Corti. Yes, that’s right, Francesco Corti, the man who has been responsible for bringing singers and musicians together for productions such as The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and La boheme to name just a few. He was to take our rehearsals before we joined up with some of the members of The Orchestra of Scottish Opera for a performance in the afternoon. So, Francesco stands up in front of the orchestra, picks up his baton and says, “Right, let’s start at letter D, that’s the trumpet solo.” Eek! That’s me! Even though I have played the solo so many times over the past few months, on top of rehearsing it several times that morning, I can’t deny that my heart started beating faster. I just hoped that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself in front of Francesco. But I didn’t make a fool of myself - he actually smiled at me when it was over! The rehearsal continued without too many glitches and we all started to relax and enjoy the experience of being conducted by this great conductor.


After lunch, we were joined by some of the singers and musicians of Scottish Opera and some of the Connect Chorus, which is always a great experience. Simon Bird (from The Orchestra of Scottish Opera) sat next to me and helped to relax me again when it came to the big solo by telling me to just breathe – it might seem like a pretty obvious thing to do, but it’s amazing how easy it is to forget to breathe when you’re anxious! It’s also slightly intimidating playing a solo in front of an orchestra that contains so many professional musicians. I don’t know why I was nervous though – the afternoon’s rehearsal was great and Simon said that the trumpets were all sounding fantastic.


After a short interval, we performed to an audience of friends and family. It was all over too quickly and before we knew it we were standing up to receive applause from the audience. Simon rushed over and congratulated Ian, Duncan and myself, saying that he had never heard us play better – what a compliment!
I have now got a break from Connect until March, but in the meantime a reduced orchestra is rehearsing and performing some arias and ensembles from operas by Mozart and Offenbach. The trumpets in Mozart’s time were nowhere near as advanced as they are now so he didn’t write very much music for them. Therefore, I have just over a month to practise Copland’s The Second Hurricane which we are performing on 18th March.