This year was my third year participating in the Baroque Opera Workshop directed by David Kerr, David Rivinus, and Sue Jensen. This year we worked on Handel’s opera Semele, a complex story involving Roman Gods (you can read the story here). This years orchestra was comprised of musicians from the Portland Baroque Orchestra, Portland Youth Philharmonic, and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony among others, consisting of 3 violins, viola, 2 celli, double bass, 2 oboes, bassoon, harpsichord, and professional singers.
We rehearsed every Wednesday starting in December, and our work culminated in two performances on Saturday and Sunday, the 4th and 5th of May at the Multnomah Arts Center. The performances went very well but, of course, we always strive for improvement next time. It was a great experience to perform in a 3 1/2 hour opera with such great musicians. I felt especially fortunate because this year I had the honor of serving as concertmaster.
This year, a new addition was added in that the strings played on Baroque instruments with gut strings. This was quite an experience! Gut strings are made from sheep gut, and were used by the musicians of the baroque period, as opposed to modern strings, which are made from steel or nylon. With gut strings, all the strings are equally thick, including the E string, which felt very strange, in contrast to the thin E I’m used to.
One disadvantage to gut strings is that they break very easily. I had the unfortunate fate to have my E string snap during the first performance! Mr. Kerr tossed me an E string, and I got the new one on, but with the baroque violin, I couldn’t figure out how to fit it into the tailpiece! Thank goodness I had David Kerr sitting next to me, he was able to fix it immediately. (Someone suggested to me later that I should have stood up, addressed the audience, and said, “When your string breaks during a concert, just go to David Kerr’s violin shop!”)
Overall this was a wonderful opportunity and I thank David Kerr and Sue Jensen for all the time they spent rehearsing us! It’s always so great to perform with professional musicians.