|The Orchestra - Sinfónía Lífsins
Author: James Hiwatari PM
Gunni is a 16 year-old violinist who has just been hired as the leader of the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra. Siggi is the 19 year-old Principal Cello who is not at all happy with this new development. This kind of plot obviously demands that Gunni develops a crush for Siggi, but that's just the beginning. A bit of everything from drama to humour. Sometimes in bed too. Slash.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Chapters: 14 - Words: 49,688 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 05-12-13 - Published: 11-02-12 - id: 3070865
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I had never been this nervous before. As I walked I felt my heart jump in my chest, reaching my throat and sinking to the bottom of my stomach. The clouds covered the sun outside, but the snow on the ground was reflecting light through the glass walls of the Harpa, the brand new Icelandic National Concert and Conference Centre in Reykjavík. The man that led me through that labyrinth of a building did not make me feel much better either; he kept glancing at me as if I was an animal in a zoo, or if I had an arm springing from my head. Every time he looked at me I had the feeling he was thinking it was a mistake for me to be there, that his eyes were deceiving him.
I couldn't blame him, though. After all I was there for an audition to the Sinfóníuhljómsveit Íslands, the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra (ISO). They had recently lost their principal first violin, the person who is in charge of the violin section, and therefore the 'leader' of the entire orchestra. I had been personally invited to this audition by the ISO's artistic director, Guðmundur Sigúrðsson or Gummi, for short (in Iceland everyone uses nicknames, even in more formal relationships). He had seen me playing at a school concert and thought I should give it a try. As far as I knew, though, orchestral musicians didn't just get invited for auditions; they had to show their CVs and prove they'd had enough experience in ensembles. But he didn't seem worried that I had none of those things. He even told me I had a good chance.
All this had happened six days ago. Since then I had done nothing but play. The butterflies in my stomach prevented me from eating more than the bare minimum, and from sleeping more than four hours a night. Despite all that, I felt very awake on my way to the audition. It was as if my excitement was numbing down the connection between my mind and body, making me forget the lack of food and sleep as long as I kept playing. I had been given an opportunity to get my dream job at time when my main worry should be passing school exams. Regardless of what Gummi had said, and despite my own anticipation, all this sounded unbelievable even to me. What chance did I have against all those experienced musicians out there when I hadn't even left school yet?
When I entered the auditorium, the stage was completely empty, save for a grand piano at the corner, a chair, and a stand for my sheets. Facing me were Gummi and a few other men and women I had never met. Gummi introduced them as directors of something or other relating to the orchestra. There was also a pianist, a small Chinese woman with a cold demeanour.
They then briefly reminded me how the audition was going to work: I would play one solo piece, followed by another three orchestral excerpts with piano accompaniment. I already knew all this because they had sent me a letter with all the information I needed short after Gummi's invitation. Attached to the letter was a list of works to choose from. Needless to say, I had been playing my four choices endlessly ever since.
"So, Gunni, what have you chosen for your solo piece?" Gummi asked. The Chinese pianist was taking her place at the piano, but the others seemed to have their eyes glued on my every move. It was unnerving.
"I'm going to play the first movement of Mozart's Violin Concerto no. 3 in G". I said, sounding more confident than I really felt. Some of the directors nodded at my choice.
"Well, then, begin when you are ready." Gummi told me, smiling reassuringly. I nodded, and proceeded to prepare my violin. I put the sheets on the stall, but I was sure I wouldn't look at them. I knew this piece by heart, having learning it when I was just six years old. This Violin Concerto was my favourite piece, and Mozart was my favourite composer. Needless to say, it was a happy surprise to find it amongst my list of possible choices.
As soon as I played the first notes I let go of my fears and insecurities. The music put me on a kind of trance, my eyes closed and my fingers played almost on their own. They were guided by the music, by the ups and downs of the cadenza and the light feel of the allegro. I was as light as the violin I was playing, as free as the music that filled the room. The first movement of the Violin Concerto lasted for about ten minutes. I remembered how impressed my family had been the first time I played it for them. Grandpa, who had been a violinist himself and who had inspired me to learn the instrument, was so moved that he gave me his own violin, which he had received from his father when he was a child learning his first notes. It was now a family treasure. I felt the honour and the responsibility that came with that present, and since then I had dreamt of the day I would be playing this violin for thousands of people in the concert hall, showing them all my love for music.
Once the first part of the audition was over, I dutifully played the three orchestral excerpts. Hearing grandpa's violin resonate in the near-empty auditorium made me realise how close I was from fulfilling my dream. It was giving me a taste of what it would be like to be a professional musician in the orchestra. The excitement generated by those thoughts gave some extra fuel to my performance.
When the audition finished, I shook hands with all the directors and the pianist. They had, with the exception of Gummi, remained very serious throughout the whole audition, but now all of them were smiling slightly, even the cold pianist.
"That was quite the performance, Gunni. We will let you know when we have reached a decision." Gummi told me when his turn came to shake my hand. "You can go now. I take it your mother is waiting outside?"
"Yes, she is."
"Then tell her I said she has an incredibly talented son."
"I... yes, I will..." I wasn't sure of what to say then. My face was fast heating up; I could feel my cheeks and my ears turning a deep shade of red. Thankfully no one commented on it as I gathered my things and left the auditorium.
When I found my mother, she was waiting for me at the reception reading a book. My face was still bright head, and she caught on it immediately, walking towards me as soon as she felt my presence.
"So, how was it? I take it went well?" she asked, correctly interpreting the reasons for my blushing. She had always had been able to tell exactly how I was feeling with just one look at me. I lowered my gaze sheepishly, feeling even more embarrassed at the prospect of having to repeat Gummi's words.
"Ah... Gummi asked me to tell you that..." I felt my ears burn. At a more rational level I knew there was no reason for me to feel so embarrassed by a compliment, but I couldn't help it. "that you have an 'incredibly talented son'".
"Oh, then it went very well indeed! I'm so glad!" she threw her arms at me and I hugged her back. I was never bothered by her displays of affection; after all I didn't see her often. As a doctor responsible for many small communities in Northern Iceland she was always travelling and couldn't spend much time with me. That one-night trip to Reykjavík was also an opportunity for us to spend more time together. "Let's go back to the hotel and rest now, shall we?" She kissed my cheek and we left the Harpa. I gave it one last look, hoping that against all the odds I would be back soon as a member of ISO. We took a taxi and fifteen minutes later I was collapsing in my hotel bed.
We left the hotel the next morning. It was a Saturday, so thankfully I wasn't missing another school day. I lived in Akureyri, Iceland's second biggest city. To get to Reykjavík we had to go by plane because Iceland has no railways and the ice and snow in the winter make the roads dangerous. We went straight to the airport; I was too tired to do any tourism. The reduced sleep hours were finally catching up to me now that the excitement was over. "You'll have plenty of opportunities to walk around Reykjavík in the future" mum reminded me when we took off. She seemed very optimistic about me getting that job, though she could also be referring to me going to the capital to study music at university. Either way I would not stay in Akureyri much longer. I was in second year of the upper secondary school, more or less in the middle of the course. School is compulsory for everyone under 16, but there are specialised schools offering three or four years of study for those who want to deepen their knowledge before going to universities. In my case, I had chosen a specialised vocational school to improve my music skills, and thus I liked my school very much and enjoyed every lesson.
Going back to school on Monday was a surreal experience. My classmates and my teacher gathered around me as soon as I arrived. They had helped me prepare for the audition, even putting aside their own work to make sure I would at least make a good impression. We were not a very big group, only ten students and a teacher, and I think this helped us get closer over the past year and a half. They asked lots of questions, and we spent the first half an hour just talking about the audition.
"If you succeed, Gunni, you will be the youngest musician to ever play for them! Isn't it great?"
"If you played there like you play for us, I don't think there will be anything standing between you and the ISO! Believe me!"
"You have the talent! I was expecting that sooner or later they would discover you!"
"I'm so proud of being your teacher, Gunni! I knew you could do it!"
These were among the things I heard them say to me that day at regular intervals between the lessons. Just like when Gummi was praising me, I felt my face heat up and my ears burn. Those sorts of comment scared me somewhat. I didn't think I was that great, I just loved what I did. The way they put it only made me feel more pressure to keep up with their expectations.
When I was finally able to go back home I realised I had hardly played anything for the entire day. I had talked a lot about the audition, the Harpa and its magnificent glass walls, the small bits of Reykjavík I had seen and even what I ate for lunch on Friday, but when it came to playing I had mostly listened to what my classmates had to show.
"I'm waiting for the moment I'll wake up and realise it has all been a dream." I said at the end of the day. My friends laughed and Geir, our guitarist, patted my shoulder with an air of fake arrogance.
"Well, if it has really been a dream then at least it was a very good one." He pompously declared, keeping up his act.
"And I bet it was worth it!" Ingibjörg, a cellist, added.
"But if it turns out it was no dream at all and you passed the audition, then you'll have to live with it and learn to be a celebrity!"
I thought Geir was exagerating a little bit, but the others seemed to agree with him. I could guess what they were thinking: Iceland is such an small nation that we celebrate every kind of record we get, even the 'country with most books per capita' one, which doesn't really look that good when you have only 320,000 people to own said books. Maybe I would get reporters on my door for being the youngest musician to ever play for the ISO, and for a week or so become some sort of 'celebrity', but it wouldn't be for long. Hopefully I would get no attention at all. In any case, Geir had a point when he said I would have to learn to live with whatever resulted from the audition.
That thought caused the butterflies to invade my stomach again. They refused to leave until Gummi contacted me again.