After her final class the next day, Maddy, with Felix at her side, made her way to the auditorium, where the auditions for new orchestra members were to be taking place. She found herself feeling rather nervous. In music class that morning, Mr. Gibson had taken her to one side and informed her that one of her duties as first chair was to judge the auditions for a new violinist. She had known it was coming of course; in her first year, she had had to play for the then first chair, a talented boy named Michael Winters who had gone on to play for the Royal Philharmonic. However, with the task imminent, she found the responsibility a little daunting.
Chill out, Maddy, Felix smiled, as though he'd somehow read her consternation right from her mind. You'll make the right choice.
They met Liv outside the doors to the auditorium, where she was waiting with a dreamy smile on her face.
I'm looking forward to tonight, she confessed, happily. It'll be the first time we've had alone together for quite a while.
Maddy returned Liv's smile. They were quite alone in the corridor, so she risked a brief but all-the-same comforting kiss on her girlfriend's cheek. Liv beamed.
Come on, she said softly. Everybody else is already inside. We should go in.
She opened the door and allowed Maddy and Felix to pass through first. The auditorium had once been a sizable lecture hall, where the whole school would congregate for lessons from guest speakers. However, this practice had fallen out of use and the room had been converted into a theatre. The raised platform that had once stood at the far end of the room had been converted into a stage, complete with luxurious velvet curtains. Seats rose in steep steps in front of it, with a crimson-carpeted aisle running down the middle. The other students were, indeed, already present. From the looks of things, Mr Gibson had already organised them into their sections, as they were sitting in small pockets dotted around the stage and seating area.
I guess we split up here then, Maddy shrugged. She said goodbye to Liv and Felix and headed down the aisle. The violinists were sitting on the front row before the stage. There were seven, including herself eight when they had a full section, which they split into two parts of four. Maddy spotted several faces not usually present; a boy in second year who had asked her the time once, another boy from the fifth year who had transferred from another school and a girl, who looked so young and nervous that she could only have been a first year. She was surprised to note that they were all, new faces and old, watching her expectantly. It was moment before she realised they were waiting for her to speak.
Oh! she exclaimed, feeling her cheeks redden. Sorry, you're all waiting for me.
She began to fiddle nervously with her hair. She had not expected to have to make any sort of speech the conductor usually took care of that. She looked to the other first chair player, a boy in the year below her named Harry Brooks. He smirked at her obvious discomfort for a moment before tossing her a lifeline.
I've already told them the basics, he informed her. They know what part they're auditioning for and how they're going to do it.
Great, Maddy smiled gratefully. Thanks.
Mr Gibson says they're to audition right here, one piece only, Harry went on. Though I'm sure you knew that.
Maddy nodded. She looked to the three newcomers, who all seemed a fraction paler than they had done to begin with.
It's alright, she assured them kindly. Just do your best, that's all anyone could ask.
So she called them forth, one by one, and invited them to play something. The fifth year boy went first, revealing that his name was Marcus and informing them a little pompously that he was going to play a version of the solo from Swan Lake. Maddy listened intently for a few moments before realising his instrument was out of tune for the song. She considered pointing it out to him but then changed her mind. Any musician worth their salt should have recognised that mistake instantly, she thought, and from the pained expressions of her fellow players, she was not alone in the opinion.
The second to play was the first year girl. Her name was Rose and she played a sombre soundtrack number that Maddy had not heard before. She was not a bad player, but her nervousness was obvious: her hands trembled and she made several mistakes with her finger-work.
Finally, the second year boy, named Charlie, played for them, an upbeat piece by a Spanish composer. The moment the boy's bow touched his strings, Maddy's face split into an irrepressible smile. This was much more like it. He played smoothly and, most importantly, passionately, his face contorting slightly as the piece grew faster and faster. When he'd finished, the other violinists applauded enthusiastically and Maddy rose to address the potentials.
Thank you, all of you, she said, as Charlie resumed his seat. We all know how hard it is to do that for the first time, so well done. She glanced reassuringly down at the three newcomers before continuing. I thought this was going to be difficult, she admitted, but you've made it quite easy. Marcus, the boy looked up hopefully at the mention of his name you played a technical piece well, but you also played the entire thing in the wrong key. I'm sorry, but that won't do. Marcus' face darkened and for a moment Maddy thought he was going to argue her decision. But he simply shrugged and began to make his way back up the aisle. Maddy let him go, turning her attention to the youngest person sitting in their section. Rose, she began. You have the makings of a great player but your nerves let you down. I think perhaps next year, when you've built up some confidence, you should definitely come and audition again. Not entirely to Maddy's surprise, tiny Rose looked somewhat relieved. She turned to Charlie, who was grinning happily in his seat, and patted him sportingly on the arm. Well done, Charlie, Maddy smiled genuinely. You played well. I think you'll be an asset to our section. The young boy beamed gratefully and Maddy stepped back, allowing the other musician to congratulate him. She cast an eye around the auditorium for her friends. Felix was with the other cellists on the stage. They had no opening to audition for, so were talking jovially amongst themselves. She spotted Liv on the far right of the room, apparently lending some sheet music to their new clarinet player. Everyone seemed pretty much finished with their auditions. Sure enough, a few moments later, their conductor appeared on the stage, calling for their attention.
Quiet please, Mr Gibson called out over the hubbub. Can everybody put down their instruments and take a seat? Wherever you are, please, there's no need to move.
Maddy watched him as he waited for the sounds of movement and conversation to subside. He was an energetic man in his fifties, with a penchant for velvet blazers and novelty ties, which were the source of great amusement amongst his students. He blinked at them expectantly through small, rectangular glasses as he waited for silence. Alright, he continued eventually. It seems everyone has completed their auditions. Congratulations to our new recruit's and commiserations to those who didn't make it this time. I'd like all the new members to come and see me before they leave so I can register them. I'd also like to remind you all that this year, meetings will take place here on Tuesdays and Thursdays from now on, unless otherwise informed.
Now, as we have a full orchestra once again, I can make the announcement that I was itching to make yesterday. I have entered us into a nationwide competition. I'm sure you've all heard of the National Junior Orchestral Competition-
An outburst of excited chatter broke out across the room, interrupting the teacher mid-sentence. The sudden blast of noise reverberated off the high ceiling, buzzing through the air like an overgrown insect. Harry Brooks to her left nudged her, his face not happy but irritated.
Is he insane? he hissed. We've just taken on new members!
Maddy could see his point. Most of their new members would not have played in an orchestra before; it would be a while before they could be assimilated into a cohesive and cooperative musical unit.
Quiet please! the conductor called again from his vantage point. Everybody settle down! I'm not finished. Now, the competition takes place in March so we have plenty of time to get ourselves up to standard. However, to get as good a head start as we can, we need to decide on the pieces we are going to play as soon as possible. I'm not going to pick them for you! It needs to be a group decision. So this weekend, I'd like you all to have a think on which two pieces one classic, one modern you would like us to play to put forward at Tuesday's meet.
He fell silent, allowing the babble of noise to surge once again. Maddy glanced past the tutor to the cluster of cellists on the stage behind him. She caught Felix's eye and the two of them exchanged identical looks of surprise. It seemed that nobody had seen this coming. Sanford High, whilst well known in the local community for it's talented students, had not entered a competition of this calibre before. Maddy's gaze roamed around the room, looking for Liv, but happened first upon Felicity Read, who seemed delighted by the news. She scowled. There were certainly going to be challenges ahead a mediocre soloist with an influential father being just one of them.