I’m nearing the end of my first full term of a new orchestra. The concert looms, but that’s another story. On the whole it’s been great, both new and familiar. Some things never change – not practising enough, swearing to yourself at each rehearsal that you’ll never come unprepared again and then still not practising enough, not looking at the conductor as often as you should despite constant reminders – but a few things have definitely moved on. The kit has improved significantly for a start.
Take music stands: I remember spindly, unstable metal affairs that toppled over if you breathed near them, and had fiendish screws that lacerated your fingers. These days stands are lighter and yet more stable, they fold up more easily and slide neatly into compact little bags with handles, the screws are either made of plastic or encased in it (altogether more finger-friendly) and, rather charmingly, they come in all the colours of the rainbow.
The cases have changed too. Anyone who has played their instrument regularly in the past decade or so has, very sensibly, invested in something a bit like this:
i.e. something relatively weather-proof, padded and with a strap that can be slung over your shoulder leaving your hands free (and a handy pouch for music). If you enter ‘viola cases’ into google images these days, you have to scroll down quite far before you come across anything that looks like mine, and scanning the orchestra last week, my case was definitely in a class of its own (not in a good way). A fellow viola reassured me that mine was endearingly retro, but quaintness might have to give way to practicality before long, if only so that I can pick up more than one bag of shopping on my way back from rehearsals.