There is a phrase that I often hear Jason toss out during rehearsal. “Live breathe die,” he’ll say, and it usually tacks on to a discussion about following one person’s every move and sound. With every piece, this suggestion and, most often, discussion arise. It might come from one of the violinists, or the violists, or one of the cellists, or perhaps whoever is standing or sitting directly next to who we should be following and they are more aware of the specific nuance or articulation that the leader is executing. Sometimes it comes from someone’s dissatisfaction with the togetherness of the ensemble in a large part of a piece or sometimes we would just like to do something very specific, subtle, and special and honing in on one person will make us focus and create a very special sound. One advantage of not having a conductor is something we create in exactly this situation. The role of leader in A Far Cry can shift in a split second during a piece. Most of the time we follow who is standing as concertmaster, but there are times when other voices should be in profile, in which case our attention is directed towards them. While a conductor is showing the direction of the music - it’s pulse, expression, emotion, changes, etc., there is something very different about following someone leading the same things with an instrument in their hand instead of a baton. There are two very meaningful differences, actually. The first is in regards to how you lead while playing and how you follow someone who is playing. They are not only showing what they would like to hear, they are also creating and producing that sound with enormous care and the more care they are giving, the more the rest of us feel it and give equal care to that note or that phrase. The second is about trust. While you are leading with a violin in your hands, you are surrounded by other violinists who are ready to take your cue, but as they are waiting for it and then while it happens, everyone is really in it together. The leader is not only giving the cue but also taking it.

I’m writing this on the late train to New York. I’m playing a small part in a very important concert tomorrow afternoon at Merkin Hall and I needed to get there before the morning’s dress rehearsal (the only time I’ll rehearse the piece before the concert!). Today was, as named months ago when we scheduled it, “A Far Cry Day.” Exactly twelve hours after our last rehearsal ended, we met in the morning at Longy. We had two three-hour rehearsals, with a lunch break in the middle. After that, we all piled into cars and headed over to Jamaica Plain where we had a meeting. At this meeting we discussed all sorts of things, from pressing managerial issues to our vision for next year and beyond.

When the discussion of our vision began, it felt a little bit like a ceremony because in a way, when we are together rehearsing, performing, socializing, it feels like there is no question of our collective vision. What we want to produce and present to the world is the highest priority, so what we do is work towards that in our actions. Production is operating with extremely positive energy and this has arrived organically and still works itself out, evolving fast enough where we can see it, but slow enough so that we understand the kind of care and effort everything needs so that it only developes that positive energy further. Live Breathe Die. We listen to eachother while we're playing and we're not playing with the same attention and care because we recognize the power in this ensemble. Needless to say, it was an invigorating conversation. We have big plans for next year and beyond and beyond and beyond. Just wait...