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Playing Violin in the Pit

orchestraI love playing in a pit orchestra. It really doesn’t matter the style of music. In high school I played for our school production of “Oklahoma,” in university I played for several Gilbert and Sullivan productions, and now in my professional life I have played in the pit for several baroque operas. I have loved it all!

The term pit orchestra comes from the fact that often the orchestra for a production usually performs in a pit in front of the stage. This way the conductor can cue both the orchestra and singers. Now the term pit orchestra has come to mean accompanying orchestra whether the orchestra is in a pit or not. I have played in a space made by removing chairs in front of the stage, in a room behind the stage with video monitors and microphones, or behind the singers on stage.

I know that a lot of musicians do not love playing in the pit. It is repetitive for sure. This past week I played for a modern oratorio for which we did six shows. For the Gilbert and Sullivan shows we would do 12 shows over the course of a month. Usually many of my colleagues would get bored and be ready to move on, but I am always a little sad as the end of the run nears.

I enjoy the fact that every night the show changes a bit. Both the musicians and actors/signers gained confidence and experiment a bit with various aspects. You have to remain on your toes the whole time because you have to respond to these changes and also adjust to any mistakes that either you or anyone else makes. I also enjoy the theatrical aspect to these shows. It is fun having the costumes and acting, even though I am not a part of either. I also enjoy the comradery of working with the same people for an extended period of time. I do sometimes feel like a bit of a lone wolf with my teaching jobs.

It has been a great week for sure, and I look forward to my next chance to play in the pit!

photo credit: Mandel Hall via photopin (license)



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