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Anyone who is invited to a rehearsal by an orchestra has to feel especially privileged, as I and my husband, Yigal, did a few days ago during our stay in San Diego. Conductors  tend to be notoriously secretive about their working methods, but this was not the case with David Amos, the conductor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra, popularly known as TICO, who enabled us to gain a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the inner workings of a full-blown orchestra.

The first thing that struck us as we entered the hall where the rehearsal was already in full swing  was the rich sound that emanated from the sixty or more members who were playing the complex rhythms of Walter Piston’s ballet suite, ‘The Incredible Flutist.’ This will form part of the orchestra’s forthcoming ‘Americana’ concert, which will also include works by Wallingford Riegger, Vincent Persichetti, and Aaron Copland.  It will be performed April 6 and 8 evenings at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.

By chance, our arrival at the rehearsal happened to coincide with that of San Diego TV personality, Dave Scott, accompanied by a  KUSI-TV television crew, there to film the event for subsequent broadcast. This was occasioned by the orchestra’s performance of Persochetti’s work entitled ‘A Lincoln Address,’ which combines atmospheric musical interludes with the narrator reading Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, given in 1865.

To me, as an Israeli citizen, the address had a special significance because of its references to the American Civil War, and especially its concluding words, ‘…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.’ I don’t know if this was intended or fortuitous, but those words are just as apt for the Middle East, and the situation of Israel today, as they were for America then.

In fact, the address contains several passages from the Bible, and — possibly because of his first name — Lincoln may well have regarded his role as something akin to that of figures from the Old Testament, for even the non-biblical passages in his speech seem to echo the rolling cadences of the Bible (King James version, of course).

Be that as it may, it was both a privilege and a pleasure to hear Scott read the text of the speech, interspersed with Persichetti’s music, which was played by the orchestra with great sensitivity. Conductor Amos urged the musicians on to ever greater heights of music-making, achieving an impressive quality of sound.

One passage in the piece by Piston required the members of the orchestra to stand up, the violinists to wave their bows in the air, and all of them to cheer and create the hullabaloo that would sound like a cheering crowd as the circus comes to town. This provided a moment of relaxation for the players and amusement for the audience. However, after Amos found that the cameraman had taken leave of absence and omitted to film that part we were treated to a repeat performance (with the cameraman in his place this time). So we benefited from a double dose of fun.

The concert is due to conclude with four dance episodes from Copland’s ‘Rodeo’ ballet, and these are touching, exciting, and raucous by turn, providing a rousing ending to a concert devoted to American music. Amos worked hard to imbue the passages that we heard being rehearsed with the energy and musicality necessary to enable the audience to enjoy the music to the full. He made no concessions allowing for the fact that the entire orchestra is comprised mainly of amateur musicians, albeit of an extremely high standard.

We left marveling at what has been achieved by a combination of willpower, practice, and dedication