Catching Up

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I have a lot to talk about in this blog post. I haven’t posted in a long time because I have been so busy with school and other things. I’ve started to write posts many different times but never was able to finish them. Three Canton Symphony concerts have passed since I last wrote, so I have a lot of catching up to do. Two of those were MasterWorks concerts, while the other was the first in the casual series. I’m going to blog about the first Casual Concert, which was awesome, in a later post, but now I’m going to talk about the last MasterWorks concert called Orchestra Spotlight, and the next one called Remembrance.

The Orchestra Spotlight concert was awesome and I really enjoyed it. My dad and I usually go to most of the rehearsals, but this time we unfortunately only went to one. I’m going to talk a bit about that first. We got there while they were rehearsing Bach Brandenburg Concerto #5. This piece doesn’t require very many orchestra members, so the orchestra was pretty small for this piece, like a chamber orchestra. There was a harpsichord there too, and it sounded really good. It was perfectly in tune as well.

We were late to the rehearsal, so we got there about ten minutes before break. During break, my dad and I went out into the room where you hang your coats up and there was a harpsichord sitting right there. I wondered why, but I didn’t want to play it just in case I wasn’t allowed. Afterwards, I got to go sit up on stage for the rest of the rehearsal and the orchestra was playing really well. They were rehearsing the Mozart piece on the program, his Sinfonia Concertante for Winds. They all sounded awesome. There was a little girl sitting where the audience would be, and she kept making noises during the rehearsal, but it wasn’t annoying at all; it was just kind of endearing. After the orchestra finished rehearsing one of the pieces, she yelled “YAY!” and I thought that was pretty funny, too. Mr. Zimmermann turned around and smiled at her.

In the middle of rehearsing the Mozart, there was a really loud sudden noise on the side of the stage right behind the violins. A couple of them jumped and one of them dropped something. I think it was a speaker that made the noise. Whatever it was, Mr. Zimmermann almost totally ignored it. I’m surprised that it didn’t really throw the musicians off. After they were done rehearsing the Mozart, they moved on to the last piece on the program, by Ginastera. I really love the opening to this piece. It starts out with harp and cello. There’s one part where the cello starts on a high note, and then a few seconds before the cello hits a rest, the violins pick up on that note and the lower strings descend. There is a bit of a scare that made me jump near the beginning, because the orchestra is playing really quietly until suddenly they play fortissimo. I know a way to avoid being startled by that kind of thing: Just watch Mr. Zimmermann and if he raises his baton above his head, then that means the orchestra is most likely going to play pretty loud. Anyway, the piece is sort of jazzy, and different, but I love it a lot. The concertmaster also played a really awesome solo. I love how string instruments can play more than one note at a time, and that technique was used a lot in the solo.

Then came the concert. During the pre-concert lecture, they had a display of instruments that are used in the orchestra, including the harpsichord I had found just outside of the hall during rehearsal. My dad and I were in charge of introducing the harpsichord to the audience members walking through to look at them. A lot of them played the harpsichord, or at least tried to. The reason I say they tried is not because they don’t know how to play, but because the state the harpsichord was in. Some of the keys didn’t work and at least half of the harpsichord was out of tune. But that’s understandable because they’re really hard to keep in tune. My dad and I went to a lecture on harpsichords at a university one time, and all four harpsichords they used were completely out of tune. It sounded terrible. One of the stops was broken on this one as well. But other than that, I was happy to be able to stand by the harpsichord, sometimes watching other people play it, but most of the time playing it myself. I’m happy I didn’t have to stand by any of the other instruments because all the other ones I have absolutely no idea how to play. Besides, I have always wanted to play a harpsichord and it gave me the opportunity to do just that.

A few harpsichord photos Callum took with his phone:
(click to enlarge)

harpsi1   harpsi2

harpsi3   harpsi-4

I also met a really nice man, and he asked me if I liked classical guitar. I do, and I told him that. He recommended a piece to me that was written for orchestra and classical guitar. He then gave me his email address and asked me to email him my opinion of the piece. I felt kind of bad because I took forever to find a pen to write down his email, and I left him standing there waiting. When I couldn’t find one he left to go search for a pen and he couldn’t find one. Finally, I found one, but I had nothing to write on, so I used my phone. It was really, really thoughtful of him to take so much of his time just for me, even when he had to stand there waiting forever. I met him when I was standing near the violin display and attempting to play a single note that sounded good. It turns out that my Aunt Carole also met him a week later, and I thought that was pretty cool. Anyway, I was a bit disappointed that I missed Mr. Albacete’s pre-concert lecture, but I enjoyed meeting new people out in the lobby.

Now on to the concert, which was amazing. They started out with the Vivaldi. I could barely hear the harpsichord for the majority of this piece, but what I could hear of it sounded great. I liked this piece a lot, which I know might be very much a cliché because I say it all the time, but I don’t think there has been a piece that the Canton Symphony has played that I haven’t liked or enjoyed. Anyway, I thought it was funny when the two violin soloists kept switching spots back and forth throughout the piece and some people were laughing.

Next was the Bach. I tried to imagine the harpsichord being louder than it was, but I don’t think that would have fit the music. I wished it was louder before, not that anybody could do anything about it anyway, but I guess it was actually just at the right volume to blend in with the orchestra, and since the orchestra consisted of only strings, the harpsichord fits in pretty well. I wasn’t used to the orchestra being so small because the stage just looked so empty. Even though the orchestra was so small, they still had a powerful, big, full sound, along with their usual beautiful playing. This piece brings back memories of when I used to watch The Little Einsteins when I was younger. My favorite episode revolved around this piece, and so I could recognize it anytime. I love everything Bach wrote. They are all such amazing works of art. Then they played the Mozart, and it was awesome, too. All four soloists sounded great.

The orchestra was almost full sized for the last piece, by Ginastera. I love the chords at the beginning. It started with just cello and harp, and the cellist nailed it. When the basses came in, it got pretty creepy. This piece was sometimes dissonant, but it usually resolved, leaving you feeling relieved. It also has a lot of odd but cool rhythms and meters, as well as chords. This concert was awesome, and I was really happy that so many people came. At the end of the concert there was a question and answer with all of the soloists as well as Mr. Zimmermann. We went to that, and I really enjoyed it, but I didn’t take any notes. As usual, I had a really great time at this concert. I hope to see you at the next concert, which I am going to talk about now.

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The next concert is called Remembrance. It is in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War 1 and the 75th Anniversary of World War 2. They are going to show pictures of those time periods and the wars. Westwater Arts photochoreography has worked with the Canton Symphony before. They did pictures for one of the first concerts I ever wrote about. They showed pictures that were taken at the time of the Civil War at that one. I am really excited to see this one. We weren’t able to make it to any of the rehearsals for this concert, so I can’t wait to be surprised by it. They are playing a lot of Copland, like Fanfare for the Common Man, Quiet City, and the first movement from Symphony No. 3.

They are also playing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9, and a piece by Kelly. I am really going to enjoy this concert.  I think a lot of war veterans will be there and they probably will have them stand up either at the beginning or the end. I am going to talk a little bit about each piece they are playing. First is Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man. The conductor of the orchestra that premiered this piece suggested to Copland that they should premier it on March 12, 1943, at “income tax time” and Copland then said that he was all for honoring the common man at tax time. One of my favorite rock bands, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, did a version of this piece and I really love it. I used to listen to it all the time. ELP’s manager had to ask permission from Copland, and he even called his home phone number. Copland told him to send it to him, and he thought it was great. He said “”This is brilliant, this is fantastic.”

They’re only playing the first movement of Copland’s Symphony No. 3, but I wish they had time to play the whole thing. It was the longest piece he had ever written. Something I find really cool about it is that he included a part of Fanfare for the Common Man, which was written in the hope of boosting morale during the war. I also can’t wait to hear Frederick Kelly’s Elegy for Strings and Harp. He wasn’t very old when he died. He unfortunately was killed in the war, and he only lived to be about 37 years old. He memorized Mozart piano sonatas at five years old and a couple years later started writing his own music. This piece was written in memory of a friend who died of blood poisoning from a mosquito bite. Actually, the original title of this piece was Elegy for Strings: In Memoriam Rupert Brooke. He didn’t add the harp part until a month before he died.

Finally, the last piece they are going to perform is Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9. Shostakovich wrote this during Stalin’s suppression of Russian citizens. This piece failed to “convey” (as said in the program notes) any Soviet spirit whatsoever. Stalin was apparently offended by the fact that there were no soloists, no chorus, and no climax. This piece was actually banned until Stalin died. That is just a little bit about the pieces and their composers. The concert is actually tonight, and I really hope to see you there.

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