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TACOS at TACO!

TACOS at TACO!

TACOS at TACO!         The smells of grilling meats and onions wafted through the air as we played our final tune, a composition of Mexican folk songs at our last TACO gathering. Catered by Five Star Tacos of San Jose, and underwritten by a very generous anonymous donor from within the orchestra, we all enjoyed this special event. Scrumptious tacos, hot off the grill, filled with carnitas and carne asada, sprinkled with lime and washed down with horchata, fed this happy gathering of musicians, family and friends after our final session of the year. TACO would not run as well as it does without the help of many people. We took time before dinner to thank our special volunteers, who help both at our sessions (set-up, registration, refreshments, take-down) and behind the scenes (marketing, publicity, photos, social media, board, website and scanning angels) all of whom help make the orchestra run well. We played Latin themed music, a complete Mozart symphony and the ever popular July 4th favorite: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. The music is grand, passionate and patriotic. Read why a tune written by a Russian composer has become associated with our independence day celebrations and fireworks: http://music.allpurposeguru.com/2016/06/1812-overture-and-4th-of-july-fireworks-why/ Tomorrow I leave for a week-long conductor’s workshop in Seattle. I am looking forward to learning a lot and addressing some specific concerns that will help me be more effective in my conducting with TACO. Hosted by the Saratoga Orchestra on Whidbey Island, the workshop looks interesting and challenging, with lots of opportunities for growth. You can read about it here:  www.PNWCI. Kent (viola) and I will follow this with a trip to place ourselves in the shadow of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, the closest one to home we will have ever seen. You too, can be in the shadow on August 21st while it moves from Oregon to South Carolina. I hope you are able to see it in totality, or at least enjoy the partial eclipse, since it is an amazing phenomenon.  While we work on preparations for our next year, you can look forward to these dates for our sessions, which are always 2 to 5 pm the last Sunday of the month: FALL 2017 SESSIONS: Sundays, September 24, October 29, and November 26, 2017 WINTER 2018 SESSIONS: Sundays, January 28, February 25, and March 25, 2018 SPRING 2018 SESSIONS: Sundays, April 29, May 27, and June 24, 2018 Keep in mind, the November session is the Sunday after Thanksgiving. We will host our annual Community Holiday Sing-Along after we rehearse. Invite your family and friends to join us for this festive launch to the holiday season, from 4 to 5 pm, with cider and cookies. I am planning this fall that we will play 4 or 5 tunes each session, giving us more time to work on the music before we play it through. It seems that as we play more difficult music, we end up rushing through to fit it all in, rather than savoring the subleties, mastering them a bit more, and enjoying our run-throughs. We can re-evaluate in a few months. Feel free to let me know what you think and what you want to play. If you are interested in writing a brief article about your own experience with music and TACO, I’d love your contributions to our blog posts. I can also use your comments in our applications for grants each year. Send me your musical musings. We received this wonderful photo of Sharon (violin) and friends making music on a pontoon boat in Oregon. Whatever you are...

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Why sight-read once a month?

Why sight-read once a month?

Someone once told me that you couldn’t get grant money just to have fun. I’ve had to move beyond describing TACO as “fun” and actually describe what we do that is musically, intellectually and emotionally important. I know deeply there is enormous value in what we do by gathering to play music for the joy of making it together. I call that “fun!” I have struggled to define what is so important to me about that process. It’s easier to say what we don’t do and why. We don’t practice to perform. We don’t meet weekly. We don’t work our music over with a fine toothcomb. There is value in that process too, working on music with in-depth understanding and detail to play the best you can, and to eventually share it with an audience. On the other hand, TACO meets monthly, we play a lot of music, and we have a new set-list each time. Why do we do it? There’s the obvious social support and networking, learning to play with an ensemble, playing with family members, keeping up your instrument at least once a month, playing a second or third instrument, and more. But what’s the value in sight-reading versus performing? Sight-reading is a musical and technical skill that takes time and effort to master with lots of benefits. You learn to decode a piece of music on the spot, going through the challenging mental process and translating that to a physical one. You start with the composer and placement in history, which gives you hints about sound and style. You make note of the time signature and key signature, looking at the overall structure of the piece. You check for repeated patterns, in melody and harmony, looking for scales or arpeggios, paying attention to note values and patterns in the music. You find rhythmic problem areas and have to work them out mathematically, subdividing, in your head and body before you can play them. You are always on the look out for changes in speed, volume, and accidentals where individual notes change from the key signature. You have to breathe and stay relaxed, brush off mistakes, stay focused and stay on tempo. With the orchestra especially, deep in concentration, you have to keep going when you make a mistake, sometimes drop out, follow along, count, find a place to join again, get back on board. Sight-reading orchestral music is something you can only do with a lot of people playing a lot of instruments in a big space. It’s a hard, challenging mind and body game, satisfying when it all comes together, and very gratifying when you’ve stayed in the game! It is a practice in mindfulness followed by exhilaration. And, it is pure fun!...

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Orchestra Musician Body Warm-ups, Why not?

Orchestra Musician Body Warm-ups, Why not?

Whether you call yourself an athlete or you just occasionally go to the gym, most likely you do warm ups before you exercise. If you go on a run or a hike, you stretch and warm-up your legs before and after you go. If you don’t take the time to warm up your body before you physical exert yourself, you are more likely to get injured and suffer pain and cramps. Just as expected, if you sing in a chorus, physical warm-ups are a part of the preparation for singing. You stretch your head, neck, shoulders and arms. You warm up the muscles in your face, your jaw and your neck. And then you vocalize, which warms up your vocal chords and get your instrument in shape for singing. I’ve often wondered why we don’t do these physical preparations as instrumentalists. You go to orchestra rehearsal or gather to play chamber music for two or three hours at a time, and frequently afterwards people have lower back pain, wrist, shoulder and neck pain. Instrumentalists are always hurting themselves, complaining about sore necks, shoulders and wrists and hands, probably due to overuse and most likely exacerbated by not warming up the physical muscles involved in holding an instrument in position for hours. It’s an interesting thing to consider. I’ve often wondered why in our orchestra it feels so strange to even think about implementing a warm up. Everyone is sitting, warming up their instrument, their embochure, their strings, but not thinking about their physical beings without instruments and warming up those muscles first. Once seated, then musicians are holding instruments and it’d be awkward to say, put them down and let’s stretch. But maybe we need to do just that: have a period of warm ups before people ever take their seats with their instruments. Stretch necks and heads, shoulders and arms, hands, wrists and fingers, breathe deeply, do some back stretches and only then sit down with instrument in hand and actually start warming up the metals, woods, strings, reeds, embouchures and strings. Perhaps then we’d all be less sore and more able to play through a rehearsal without body pain. Maybe musicians would suffer fewer injuries and discomforts. Let’s test it out and try it at our next TACO...

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TACO Hosts Holiday Sing-Along

TACO Hosts Holiday Sing-Along

Another year ’round and it’s time again to welcome the holiday season! TACO will host a free community holiday sing-along the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Bring your friends and family for some fun singing. We’ll provide lyrics to sing along with the orchestra. Together we’ll play Christmas music, a new Hannukah medley, tunes from John Lennon and George Handel, and end with a rousing rendition of Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. All for fun and no singing experience needed! Here’s the flyer about the event. Please share it with your friends and family, your community and with anyone you know who likes to sing. We hope you’ll join us!In the meanwhile, have a very Happy Thanksgiving! Holiday Sing-Along...

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TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success! Summer 2016

TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success!    Summer 2016

A warm, sunny evening, children playing and people wandering the streets, bright umbrellas and colorful Adirondack chairs were the backdrop for the orchestra setting up on the green. August’s First Friday coincided with the closure of one block in downtown Los Altos, which was covered in astroturf. TACO was the first musical group to play on the green and what a fabulous event it was. Embracing low expectations, TACO defied the odds! We had 68 musicians show up to play and miraculously we had a well balanced orchestra. A saxophone solo and a trombone choral interlude were highlights. Show tunes, a couple of familiar classics, jazz and pop filled out our fun set-list. Laughter floating from the orchestra and the audience, chatting alternating with intent listening while we played, friends and family smiling and watching our focus were all part of the experience. A couple of earnest and accomplished youngsters joined their older relatives to play with us. Two very accomplished strangers, enticed by the “Pop-Up Orchestra” publicity posters, surprised us by showing up to play. And sight-reading together, after one rehearsal, was fun for all. Thanks to the Los Altos Community Foundation and their organizing committees for First Friday and 3SG (Third Street Green), for hosting our TACO Pop-Up Orchestra! We had a wonderful time. Our next TACO gathering will kick-off our Fall season. We meet September 25th, October 30th, and November 27th. Sign up through our Contact form on this website. Join us for TACO music making...

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TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

The Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra (TACO) will join other musicians filling the streets of Los Altos with live music on First Friday, August 5th. TACO brings their fun and light-hearted approach to the 3rd Street Green (between State Street and the North Parking Plaza). TACO will POP-UP on the Green from 6 to 8 pm. Restaurants and shops will be open late. Bring a folding chair or come early to enjoy an Adirondack chair on the Green. The orchestra includes musicians of all ages with a range of skills from beginner adults to experienced performers. TACO will play a concert of fun and familiar music, including pop, show tunes and classics. Directed by Cathy Humphers Smith, this multi-generational orchestra plays with the goal of having fun! TACO will perform in their non-performing way, always with fun, maybe stopping and starting a few times in unexpected places, anything to lower expectations and invite cheerful relaxed music-making. The set-list includes a variety of types of music all arranged for orchestra. TACO will play music from two movie soundtracks: the Sound of Music and Pink Panther, and the pop tune Viva La Vida by the British band Coldplay. They’ll play a jazzy rendition of an early Cakewalk and Lullaby in Birdland with a saxophone solo. What would an orchestral concert be without two familiar classical tunes: the beautiful 4th movement from Brahms Symphony No. 1 and Farandole (dance from L’Arlesienne Suite) by Bizet. Another dance tune will be a Latin cha-cha. They’ll play Appalachian Lullaby, an orchestral version of the children’s song All the Little Horses, which will be combined with the famous Ashokan Farewell, famous as the soundtrack to Ken Burns Civil War documentary. However, Ashokan Farewell was actually written in modern times as a farewell tune for a camp in upper state New York. And what would a summer concert be without the famous Stars and Stripes Forever! TACO is a non-profit under the fiscal sponsorship of the Los Altos Community Foundation. For more information go to www.tacosv.com. Photo credit: Ellie Van...

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