For the first concert of AYO’s July season in 2015, the orchestra took to Melbourne’s Hamer Hall to deliver an exceptional performance. Percussionist Tegan LeBrun was met with challenging repertoire, and rose to the challenge and delivered a sensational performance. Tegan gives us an insight into the Melbourne rehearsals, tells us how the percussion section conquered Mahler’s 6th Symphony, and recounts her most memorable AYO experiences.
AYO has been such a wonderful experience for me over the years – I have so many fond memories of National Music Camp and at July and February Seasons and I have made so many great friends along the way. I think AYO is so special because it provides such a unique opportunity to challenge yourself and grow as a player in a very practical environment. You are able to fully immerse yourself in an orchestra made up entirely of your peers, who are as committed as you are to producing a really great performance; it’s a very special thing.
I remember my first performance on an AYO program – it was at National Music Camp in Adelaide and we played Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. To this day I think of that concert as my most treasured performance memory. It wasn’t that I played great (there were a few creative entries actually) or that I had, as the bass drum player, an incredible amount to do. It was that feeling that everyone was so invested in the piece, that we knew that after the a long week of rehearsals and practice that this was it, this was the moment to let it all go and just play. That was the first time I really felt like I was just a small part contributing to this one, much bigger body. It felt as though we, as an orchestra, were all moving together and reacting together and not only playing for the audience, but for ourselves and for each other. Sure, I listen back to the recording now, 5 years later and more experienced and there are plenty of things I would do differently if I played the piece again, but I wouldn’t change a thing about that night – warts and all it was, as I remember it, a really special performance. Now as the Principal Timpanist I have had the opportunity to contribute to the orchestra much more, particularly in Mahler’s Symphony No.6.
This particular Mahler symphony is a big play for timpani and is famous for its hammer blows in the percussion section. It is such a powerful work – Mahler makes such good use of instrumentation in terms of colour and musical line; there is so much going on at times and yet somehow it all makes sense – every complimenting melody, every juxtaposition between sections – it all somehow seems to fit together to make this glorious entanglement of sound and emotion. Not only is the symphony really great, but getting to work on it with Sir Mark Elder has been such an experience and a real privilege.
Sir Mark has really pushed the orchestra this season. He has such specific ideas of the sound world he wants to create and is so invested in each work – it has been a great challenge for me to adapt as a player to his requests, and to see if I can push myself to further explore my capabilities in sound and expression. The orchestra as a whole has worked very hard in the lead up to our 2 concerts, which I think really paid off in our first concert in Melbourne.
When I first saw Hamer Hall on the morning of our dress rehearsal I was a little taken aback – it is a really big space and was such a different acoustic to what we had been playing in prior to the concert day. It was a great challenge to adapt to a space like Hamer and everyone in the orchestra took it in their stride. The concert was really great – we played well as an orchestra and were able to adapt in those few ‘creative’ corners of each piece. Mahler was a particular highlight for me – so many emotions surfaced in the last few bars of the symphony; I was exhausted, happy to have made it to the end of such a substantial work and really proud to have been involved in the performance and in the AYO. The experience was made all the more special because I could tell that each and every one of my fellow orchestra members shared some of my feelings and that everyone was invested in the concert right up until the very last note of the Mahler. We had given it our all, put everything we had into the concert and we made it; together, as a team.
Now we are all looking forward to Sydney and doing it all again in the Sydney Opera House – I can’t wait and I’m sure the concert will be just as fantastic as it was in Melbourne!