Another gem of San Diego is the La Jolla Symphony, which I have the pleasure to play viola in. It is half a community orchestra, half UCSD’s orchestra, and 100% awesome.
The backstory: when Mike and I moved to San Diego, I knew that I wanted to find some place to play my viola, so I auditioned for the SDSU Symphony and played there for a semester. It was fine and all, except for the fact that (a) nobody off-campus has heard of it and (b) nobody on-campus aside from the music department itself cares about it.
When I was at Mudd, I played in two orchestras – the Pomona College Orchestra and the Claremont Concert Orchestra. Both held two concerts per semester (two performances per concert), and all the concerts were free and well-advertised with posters all around campus. None of this was the case with the SDSU Symphony. Plus, rehearsals were poorly organized, musicians didn’t feel the need to show up regularly, and the conductor that particular semester was temporary. In December, I learned that the next semester’s required graduate astronomy courses were going to be offered at the exact same time as the symphony’s rehearsals, so something had to change.
As with most things in life, after a bit of panicking (along the lines of “nooo, I must have an orchestra to play in, why must my life interests conflict with each other…”), things all worked out for the best. I started scouring the internet for halfway decent community orchestras in San Diego and contacted one of my old conductors from the Claremont Colleges. He suggested the same thing my incessant googling yielded: the La Jolla Symphony.
And so, after brushing off the first movement of my trusty Schubert Concerto and woodshedding a harrowing set of orchestral excerpts, I headed off to audition in January. It went reasonably well, and even though I had missed the first rehearsal of that particular concert, they invited me to join the back ranks of the viola section that night.
After about five minutes, my fellow newbie stand partner and I concluded that we had just joined the nuttiest orchestra in existence. The program was eccentric and hard. I actually took my part home and practiced it. And the orchestra was huge. It also sounded really effing good.
Fast forward to tonight, nearly five months and three concerts later – our final rehearsal for this weekend’s concert (save Friday’s dress rehearsal, of course). The seating rotates semi-randomly so as to not correlate with a rank, and I am sitting sixth of fourteen violas in this concert. We barely fit on the stage, and a full choir is somehow joining us. We are playing one piece: Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” It is five movements of epic.
If you are anywhere vaguely near San Diego, I urge you to go out of your way to come to this concert. I know I hype my orchestra concerts a fair amount, but unless something goes terribly wrong, I sincerely believe this concert will be in my top 10 ever. (This also means my arm will fall off; to this I say “meh, it happens.”) The piece begins in a dramatic funeral march, and visits the realms of joy, love, parody, calm, depression, resilience, laughter, stubbornness, and hope, to name a few. Then the choir enters on a note so low and eerie the building shakes, heralding the moment of resurrection, and the whole mess builds to an orgasm of ow my eardrums, complete with on- and off-stage brass, but in a holy shit that is awesome and my life now has meaning kind of way.
Let me know before Friday, and I can get you a discounted ticket: $12 for students or $20 for general admission. Saturday, June 6 at 8pm or Sunday, June 7 at 3pm. It’s at UCSD in Mandeville Auditorium. The dress rehearsal is free and open to the public on Friday at 7pm, too, if you prefer. Believe me when I say it will be worth your time and money.