TACO meets next on January 26, 2014.

The Sunday before Thanksgiving, musicians of the Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra gathered for a sunny, fall day of music making, marking the final session of 2013. Completing our third year of gatherings as TACO, the day was a fulfilling success.

Set-up started in the large empty community center room, white tile floor, white ceilings, and open clear windows letting in bright sunshine and overlooking apricot orchards. Like a painter’s canvas, stretched and clean, ready for creative imprints, the room waited for music.

The directors arrived early to set up chairs, basing the orchestra’s seating chart on the RSVP’s received in prior weeks. Before the appointed time, musicians began to fill the room, laying their appetizers on the foyer tables, cheerfully greeting each other and welcoming new folks, making their own name tags, setting up music stands and instruments, opening their folders full of music. Reams of paper splashed with anticipation in the form of little black dots and lines, music still only an idea on paper.

The directors taped the set-list for the day to the wall. Batons were pulled out and the podium centered. Music was stacked up out of carts and the conductor’s microphone readied, while the percussionists continued to lay out instruments. Problems and worries disappeared as people began to tune up. And with the first song, a Clementi Sonatina, individual musicians wove familiar melodies into a web of symphonic sound, as silent notes on paper were transformed into live music. Baroque pieces for warmup, symphonies of familiar and lesser known works, and show tunes which make everyone want to sing is part of the TACO formula.  Patiently working with whom ever shows up at any particular  gathering, the directors guided the musicians through the music. The feeling in the room was happy and focused, relaxed and satisfied.

The orchestra played Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances at a slow tempo until there was confidence enough to play it faster. Some people new to the orchestra and ensemble playing, were stumped, listening from their chairs, trying to follow the counting and keep up. Others adapted the music and played what they could. Many confidently played their parts and egged the conductor on to play it at full tempo, while others laughed and listened.

On this particular day, patiently layering the voices and tackling the rhythms, conductor Vivian McNulty led the ensemble through Phantom of the Opera, where transitions are marked by changes in key and time signatures presenting difficult challenges for any orchestra. The large contingent of brass at this TACO had pages full of notes, and while the music challenged everyone, it especially gave the brass a chance to shine.

As the famous Finale from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony took shape, people listening outside took note. Curious bystanders strolled inside to listen, holding toddlers in arms, riveted by the sixty musicians at work.

New musicians concerned about not practicing enough, at TACO for the first time, learned that it doesn’t matter. Fun takes precedence over perfection and everyone contributes what they can to making the music work. As conductor Cathy Humphers Smith reminded the orchestra, adapting the music is fine. Stand-mates help each other find their place when lost, sometimes the conductors yell out the measure numbers, and the goal is for everyone to be playing the same measure at the same time. Experienced musicians help less experienced and everyone is in it for the moment, not for a future performance.

As the music came to an end, a few guests stood and applauded spontaneously, thanking the musicians for their efforts. Wanderers returned to the outside playground and chatting picked up as everyone reluctantly ended the practice session. Music was tucked away, instruments were wiped clean of rosin and spit, returned to their cases. Chairs and tables were tucked back into storage, appetizers were finished off, cars loaded, goodbyes said and the room returned to an open, empty and quiet space awaiting our next TACO gathering and a new year of music making.

Join us when TACO gathers next on January 26, 2014 after a nice long holiday break.

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