That didn't mean that I wasn't a little tense about it. Being able to play all of the licks in the privacy of my room, at the tempos I set for myself, is one thing. But finding my place in the chords, picking my way through tempo and key changes in real time, and discovering in the moment just how my other colleagues were interpreting the tunes we play together is quite another.
What made this experience amazing was how nice all my colleagues were to me. I got lovely, clear, helpful cues from the principal flute, the second oboe, and of course the conductor. I felt supported and comfortable with the musicians behind me - I never felt like I was playing too loudly or softly because the group balanced to me seamlessly. Even though I must have been playing differently from the REAL principal oboe, they made me feel like I was doing it right.
There was even something awfully pleasant about fitting myself into this pre-existing ensemble. If I had attended all of the rehearsals I would have known all the ins and outs of the piece and would have been a part of the team that created the interpretation. But coming in as a stranger I got to enjoy my solo role without having to boss it, and what a pleasure that was! My job was simply to listen and fit in and that's easy compared to the pitch and articulation negotiations that certainly went on during the first week of the cycle.
I'm on the train home now, as my colleagues set up and prepare for their second performance of the night. As much as I enjoyed my afternoon, I'm happy to let them go on without me. Reading Sylvia once was exhilarating and fun, but I'm not sure I have the energy in me to be the new girl again twice in one day. I was on HIGH ALERT for a full two and a half hours, and that really does take a lot. Everyone else in the pit is doing the show half asleep by now, and after a few more services I would be too, but after one tense show I'm glad to be able to let my guard down tonight.