I Survived The Glazunov Concerto

I performed my arrangement (for saxophone quartet and solo alto saxophone) of the Glazunov Saxophone Concerto last night. I was nervous, I made mistakes – lots of them, I even opted out of a section…and I’m thrilled with how it went.

Last night was Carleton University’s Saxophone Ensemble concert. There were four university quartets, plus a quartet and saxophone ensemble for Canterbury High School, my performance of the Glazunov, followed by a double saxophone quartet, and two saxophone choir pieces.

I ended up performing in my usual quartet, and recently joined a second quartet just three weeks ago. In addition, I had saxophone choir duties, and I two of my pieces were performed (all on baritone saxophone). Then just one, the big one, on alto saxophone. It was a ton of playing in different styles, and configurations. I love that!

My day (and the night before) of the concert was full of nervous energy. Not anxiety, but sheer excitement. This was it – the culmination of my academic year (well, at least from October to April). I booked my students off, I had lots to do, and I needed to get myself calmed down a bit. I was so amped up, I hit the weight room hard, and still was bouncing off of the walls. Haha!

I arrived at the venue early, I wanted to get some time in on both instruments, pick a reed or two that would work, and get comfortable in the space. Sound check on some of the choir pieces ran a little long, and I didn’t get a chance to hear my alto in the hall before playing. To honest, I was a little relieved to not have to switch gears right before performing with the quartets.

The quartet performances went great, and I took off into the back room to get my alto warmed up, and hopefully, get into a good headspace for my first performance of a major work. I stalled…and stalled. I paced, I filled my water bottle up three times – the nerves were setting in. I could not believe how wobbly my legs started to get. I tried running a few sections really slowly, but my fingers didn’t want to work. Just thinking about it is making my hands tingle right now. I had asked Rebecca (the soprano player in the group to come get me I case I lost track of time). She found me, and we went to the hall. We listened to the final piece before it was our time to hit the stage, and entered the hall.

I had told Mike (Tremblay) that I wanted to say a few things before we performed. It was at this concert last year where I decided that I wanted to finish my degree. I was a last minute sub in the quartet that I am currently playing in, and it really sold me on the idea that I could finish my degree at Carleton. I wanted to thank the musicians who were performing with me, and Mike, who has been so incredibly supportive of me while I navigate new musical challenges, university life, and my life outside of academia, as well as being (and most importantly) a great friend.

I performed the Glazunov. I was so nervous – funny to me, the technical sections that I was worried about, came off beautifully, and some of the sections that I had no trouble in rehearsals, and in the practice room, had some warts. I could not believe how nervous I was, and how my nerves played a role in the way I played, but every time that I made a mistake, I was about to regroup, and move forward. I’m really proud of that.

When I got home, I listed to the stream right away – I couldn’t help myself. I loved certain elements – I thought that my sound was really locked in, and I thought that I paced the cadenza well, and cringed at the mistakes, but I survived.

I would perform it again tomorrow.

I think that’s what it’s going to take for me to get comfortable performing classical music. Doing it over, and over again. Making mistakes, and rebounding, until the nerves subside (at least a little).

I survived my first performance of the Glazunov!

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