Monday, March 21, 2016

A View from the Pit

Heinz Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center at WCCC

The final weekend performances of MOT’s production of Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land were held at a very interesting venue, the Heinz Prechter Educational and Performing Arts Center in Taylor, MI. It’s the first time the company has presented there and, according to CEO Wayne Brown’s opening remarks, it won’t be the last.

My first impression was favorable. It looks like a very new performing arts hall but I was told it’s been there for a number of years. As I drove in from Northline Rd. the architecture of the building welcomed me with open arms and the glass façade gave an inviting effect. Inside the back stage area was spacious and clean – unbelievably so. Someone provided signs directing us to the pit which was so low that a platform had to be built for the orchestra and, even with a podium, the conductor’s head couldn’t be seen from the audience. After coming from the Macomb Center the sound was surprisingly complimentary and friends in the audience said the orchestra sounded great.

My view of the stage from the pit

It was generally agreed in the orchestra pit that, although we enjoyed the music from Copland's opera, we are glad it’s over. The orchestra parts were reduced from a full orchestra to a small chamber ensemble of 13 musicians and we had to carry the backup for the singers for a little over two hours.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if we had had an intermission between acts 2 and 3 but, perhaps in order to save time, they decided to combine the second and third acts into one 60-minute act. It was a killer for some of the musicians. A few of us were complaining about our rotator cuffs, there was a bad back or two and arms were practically falling off by the end of every performance. Maintaining concentration was also a challenge when you're playing constantly, as was balance in volume between pit and stage. We were frequently given “the hand” (shhh – play softer!) and I was heard proclaiming that “I’ve never played so softly in my life!” The clarinetist and I were comparing notes on how our embouchures were unable to produce a decent sound anymore and I felt a kindred spirit with marathon runners as they collapse at the end of a race.  

Now we have a much needed week off before rehearsals start for the ballet, The Sleeping Beauty with the American Ballet Theater from New York. I have to switch gears from flute to piccolo and Copland to Tchaikovsky – a marathon to a series of sprints. At least in ballet we don’t have to worry about playing softly all the time so the singers can be heard.


  1. It sounds like they were overworking you for sure!

  2. But so many wonderful opportunities! :D <3

  3. Loved the shot of the stage -- and here I thought you all got the best seats in the house ; )