Highlands Chamber Orchestra’s First Concert

Nearly two weeks ago, the still-brand-new Highlands Chamber Orchestra put on its first full concert! I was humbled to be chosen as their Music Director and it’s been an amazing ride for three months.
The first few rehearsals were surprising, if can be that honest. Pieces started sounding really good quite early on, especially Finlandia and The Great Gate of Kiev. We cut a piece by Liszt early on and nearly cut Peer Gynt after that. Doubt was setting into the orchestras board, including me, of our success at a concert. But we decided to give it ‘two more weeks’. To our shock, Peer Gynt came together really nicely. We could then spend time fine tuning it.
Also on the program was a double concerto for clarinet and viola by Bruch. What an amazing learning experience for us all!! Suddenly I wasn’t in charge. As a developing conductor, learning as I go, this was a surprise. Joking aside, conductors need some ego and confidence to lead an orchestra and shape a piece exactly the way they want it. Throw in not one, but two concerto soloists and we play a subservient role to their interpretation. And the orchestras role is changed too. They played it beautifully!! The strings to be so cognizant of playing ‘under’ the soloists, and the upper winds to be so patient to play in the tuttis only. The horns though had the interesting role of being pure harmonic background along with the bassoons. They had to achieve that delicate balance between ‘horn’ and ‘string’ sound.
The opening Finlandia was amazing!! The best they’d played it: dark, passionate, energetic and rousingly patriotic. It was probably my favourite piece of the night. The double concerto went surprisingly well too with the orchestra responding very well to tempo fluctuations that happen in concerto performances. Everyone was watching and listening. After a performance of a Schubert string quartet and a Brahms trio, we closed the first half with Elgar’s Nimrod. We had a running gag going in rehearsals where each week we played it slower than the last. We didn’t beat our record at the concert, but boy it felt great. I love conducting that one without a baton: it feels so good from my finger tips to my core.
The second second half contained some really challenging material, especially for the winds. Despite this, the orchestra still played very well. Peer Gynt had so many great moments, including the ending, and the Trisch-Trasch Polka practically played itself. The Great Gate of Kiev was amazing as well: the ending was so majestic and grand. It was a fantastic ending to the concert.
We were all riding a HUGE high after the concert. It was such an amazing accomplishment for everyone, and was really enjoyed by the audience. I don’t know if I could gush enough about how well itwent. No exaggeration.
No there’s talk about collaborations with choirs, a Summer Festival performance and an Opera Extravaganza evening. I’ve already submitted a draft program for the spring, which includes some baroque, classical and big romantic numbers. We’re already looking forward to the next concert.

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