March-ing to a novel melody

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Ellie Chan

ENSEMBLES UNITE: Violinists freshman Lucas Nguyen (left) and senior Michelle Yoo (right) in Philharmonic Orchestra perform “Prelude from Carmen” with Wind Symphony for the first time since the pandemic.

Karen Bruce, Staff Writer

Two hours sitting in the Northwood theater, you travel great distances—to Americana hoedowns, Arabian campfire dances, alien communities on Jupiter—unfamiliar scenes painted so palpably by vibrations of strings and collections of breaths. 

Band and orchestra musicians transported audiences during their second concert of the year on Feb. 23 and 24. The choral program took the stage the following week on March 1 in their concert entitled “Hope,” which touched on heavy themes of pain, social justice and maintaining optimism.

This concert was a notable one for the bands that were able to perform indoors for the first time since the pandemic. Students found that being inside the theater as opposed to the football field drastically improved their performance quality. 

“Playing inside, I could actually hear the different parts of the band coming together, like I could actually hear the trombones from the opposite side of the band,” Wind Ensemble trumpet player junior Bruce Duong said. “Hearing everyone helps you articulate your part better to fit the overall sound. And that made our band sound that much better.”

It was also a momentous occasion for the Philharmonic Orchestra and Wind Symphony musicians who came together to play Georges Bizet’s “Prelude from Carmen.” This was the first time the full orchestra performed for a live audience in over two years, and served as a bittersweet reminder to those who worked on Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” in 2020, a full orchestra project never performed due to school closures in March of that year. 

A common pre-pandemic practice for musicians was to attend festival events where ensembles perform their repertoire to a panel of judges for critiques and ratings. The spring instrumental concerts mimicked this experience by inviting Bob Feller, the director of winds and brass at Biola University, to adjudicate the band and orchestra performances.

Ensembles took their audiences on a trip around the globe with their music, many of which depicted scenes from all different corners of the world. Concert Band’s “Arabian Dances” utilized claps to mirror the cheers of onlookers during an Arabian campfire dance, while Viva Cantar took audiences scurrying through Japanese rice fields in the folk song “Jorigi-Tohkanya,” which choral director Zach Halop stated was one of the hardest pieces in his library.

To prepare for these difficult selections of music, students held small group rehearsals with their section (sectionals) in order to work on specific parts that required further practice. 

“The first and second violins collaborated in our sectionals leading up to the concert, and the concertmaster even got me to conduct so we could work on following the conductor’s instructions,” Concert Orchestra violinist freshman Evelyn Guo said. “Our orchestra made so much progress, and I’m happy we managed to put on a wonderful performance.” 

The Concert Orchestra performed their serenade “October,” one of the many emotionally impactful pieces prevalent throughout the concerts. Other highlights included Wind Ensemble’s “Song for Lyndsay,” depicting a love story through French horn and flute solos, and “I Ask for One Day,” a yearning for justice breathtakingly executed by the Treble Clef choir.

“By singing, you can say something meaningful and do something beautiful at the same time,” Treble Clef singer freshman Nikki Estefania Mila de la Roca Suarez said. “‘I Ask for One Day’ was a way to simply express hope in a way that’s very honest and true.”

Music concerts will return again with the annual Jazz at the Oak on May 13, and the year will close with the Pops Concerts that are set to feature all bands, orchestras and choirs later that month.