Pre-performance there is the usual, seemingly chaotic sound of players tuning up and rehearsing tricky runs, finding their music, applying rosin to bows, polishing keys. Then, for a moment, silence falls.
As the music begins, the key of C is established and I play the main melody. As I listen intently, the chord sequence seems fixed, predictable for a while, but this does not fool me. I must stay alert. It would be disastrous at this point to get lulled into a false sense of security.
The music grows and swells and I weave together new motifs and familiar patterns. I continue to play as others join in, sometimes taking the lead, sometime holding back so different textures and sounds can emerge. As I listen, I notice a subtle change. The transition chord has been played and I must respond. E minor, Asus (hold that chord) A, and now we’re in the key of D.
There is no sheet music to follow here. This improvisation requires finely honed skills developed over many hours of practice, decades of experience as a player, a sharp ear and, most of all, a willingness to listen and respond with sensitivity. Each performance is unique.
We arrive at the end of the piece in a blaze of full harmony.
Exhilarated, exhausted, alive, we bow and the curtain falls until next time.