SUWO wins States 2011!

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Victorious! - with Musical Director Adrian Tan

Alright. Here it is. Crunch time. All the hard work we’ve put in to the last 8 weeks has amounted to this singular moment, there’s no turning back.

We quietly walk out and take our seats to a deadly silent audience. Take a breath. Shake out all your nerves. Look up. Focus. To our conductor, eyes fixated on his every gesture. Ready. We’re all ready. Here it is, open chests, deep breath. And BANG, into the moment.

The Sydney University Wind Orchestra recently competed in the Open B Grade category of the NSW State Band Championships for 2011. An immense amount of hard work, blood, sweat and tears were put into preparing for this competition, from all the members, and especially SUWO’s Musical Director, Adrian Tan. And for that, we are immensely proud of ourselves.

The journey has been spectacular. With the fantastically ecstatic result of victory! Yes we did it! We WON for our division, an incredible result! Almost in disbelief, we cheered our little hearts out at the announcement. We were taken to a state of delirious glee and pride. The victory, although wonderfully sweet and well deserved, has little meaning compared with the journey that took us to that moment. So let’s reflect on the journey that took us there.

It all started at band camp… So, “this one time… at band camp…”, we started reading music for states. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself!) At that critical moment, Adrian was deciding on what we (the musicians) responded to, by throwing a whole pile of music at us to sight-read. For those of you who are not musically inclined, imagine getting a whole pile of movie scripts and acting through the scenes with a bunch of friends, to reach some discernibly performable state. Yeah… not likely. But at that critical stage, Adrian was working out what was and wasn’t working, what he could do to make things work, and most importantly of all, how best to show us off, impress the audience and demonstrate our musicality.

From band camp, we the members learnt to be more courageous with counting and entries – when you are given very few chances to understand something because it’s new, it takes nerves of steel to play without second guessing yourself. We also learnt to listen to each other, which helps us to understand and respond to each other, because the music is communal to all instruments. We also did a small talent show for fun and that gave us all opportunity to learn about our most talented players.

Most, but not all members were able to attend band camp. So once we started rehearsals post camp, a few members had a bit of catching up to do! And of course Adrian happened to pick the most challenging, most showy-offy piece he could thing of; Festival Variations by C.T. Smith. We all looked dumbfounded at our sheets of music, riddled with complicated markings of black dots and squiggly lines. One could only laugh at the thought… ha ha ha… oh he’s serious?! Oh – oh darn, we have some serious work to do!

And out crack the whips. Only joking! No, but seriously. We practiced hard. And fast. There wasn’t much time. Considering that not only were we practicing for States, but for a concert pre-states to warm ourselves up to the competition, it left very little room for error.

Apart from our show piece, we worked on a band arrangement of Schubert’s Ave Maria to show our real musicianship. In preparation for this piece, we practiced by singing our parts, to really hear the harmony, work on intonation and exaggerate melodic lines by thinking of our roles as voices in a choir. This strategy worked incredibly well, we killed the competition because of it! We also worked on Rising Dragons by Robert W. Smith, one of the competition test pieces. This piece was more about character. We were telling a story and animating it through the music. So to succeed, we had to tell it in the most compelling, exciting way we could. So in a lot of ways, the test piece was not as challenging because certain characters were plain and obvious. But that didn’t make it any less important to work on and improve. Being the test piece, we needed to make it as compelling as we could, as we would be directly compared with other groups.

In amongst the intense competition practice, Adrian whacks in a few different pieces to play through, here and there. To lighten the mood, perhaps, and keep us on our toes. Two weeks to go, and we now move into 2 rehearsals per week, including sectionals. In sectionals, we break off into our instrument types to work on the nitty gritty bits that need synchronisation in the sections, before we place our sections back together for the full rehearsal. We’re coming together. In bits and pieces. But we’re not there yet…

It’s getting intense!! Lot’s of pressure. But so much of it is getting together. We are making many beautiful moments. But it’s so tough. We’re struggling to play it though without losing out, without slipping up, without disappointing ourselves. Just keep going, keep trying, keep working at it! Muster all the strength you can and just go for it! Try to hit it every time. Don’t waste time regretting a bad moment. Keep going.

Alright! It’s pre-state concert time. Whoa time flew so fast, that went really quick! Hurrah, good show! One done, one to go.

Oh my GOODNESS it’s STATES. – mumbling profanities – I’m not ready. Oh no. Ok, you know what? Do it. Bring it. Let’s get on with it. Ok… warmed up. Ready to get on stage…

– Vicki Sifniotis