student instrumentalists complete the semester – The Bowdoin Orient
Over the past two weeks, the Bowdoin campus has seen the culminating performances of many college instrumental groups, from chamber groups to jazz ensembles, the Middle Eastern Ensemble and the Bowdoin Orchestra, the latter having concluded this series of concerts on December 7 and 8.
“A highlight was working with a group of new people. A lot of [the other instrumentalists] were first and second graders I had never played with, ”said Paris Wilson ’23, who plays violin in Bowdoin’s orchestra and a chamber band. “The simple fact of being able to replay your music after [such a] long [time] not playing was really cool.
For Robert Beckwith, artist-in-residence and director of the Bowdoin Orchestra George Lopez, preparations for conducting and conducting these orchestral performances began at the start of this semester.
“I’m all about participation in terms of involving as many students as possible in the orchestra and in the performance,” Lopez said.
Lopez intentionally builds a concert’s repertoire around the skills of student performers, in hopes of engaging them and showing their strengths to the college community.
“Over the past three years we’ve had two harpists on campus who are part of the Orchestra, so I’ve always chosen pieces that include the harp,” Lopez said. “We played two symphonic works in the concert which included them both, and then they played a duet alone.”
Once Lopez selects a repertoire, he begins sketching out rehearsal plans. With just three hours of rehearsal per week, Lopez believes it’s crucial to distribute proportionate weight to each song and section.
“I’m planning out what absolutely needs attention up front, and I’ll point them out to things to start working on right away,” Lopez said. “Usually it goes from the more difficult parts to the less difficult parts, and it becomes the rehearsal process. “
Lopez believes the completion of this project was made significantly easier by the Orchestra’s willingness to adopt unorthodox rehearsal methods – and, on occasion, compromise their comfort – for the sake of playing music.
“We have started [by] repeat outside [and continued] during the third week of October the winds and the brass parted from the strings, and I had fingerless gloves for them because their hands would get cold, ”Lopez said. “It was a challenge, because I didn’t have the Orchestra together for very long, but when we were together what we were able to accomplish was extraordinary.”
The short delay between rehearsals and orchestral performances made Lopez even more dependent on some of the “key players” in the ensemble.
“With violins, violas and cellos, you have several people playing the same role, so if one or two are missing, it’s not as bad as if one of your flutes was missing,” said said Lopez. “In the past, I dubbed clarinets, flutes and oboes, but I didn’t have that option this semester. “
Wilson added that in addition to the challenges posed by the pandemic, there were also standard technical challenges that she observed in both her chamber band and in the orchestra.
“I think the biggest challenge was making sure we stayed together, at the overall level,” Wilson said. “But I think it all happened very quickly.”
Tuesday and Wednesday’s concert drew a diverse cross section of the Bowdoin community, from music teachers to student supporters with little to no instrumental music experience.
“I never get to watch string instruments play, they are so graceful with their arms,” said Sofía Hamby ’23, who attended the concert on Tuesday night. “I feel like I watch them most of the time. “
“The third section track was my favorite,” added participant Elijah Rowland ’23. “It was very upbeat and happy, a nice balance with the rest of the pieces.”
Like Lopez and Wilson, Hamby took the opportunity to return to an orchestral concert in person for the first time in over a year.
“Some of them had taken off their trumpet masks,” Hamby said. “It was nice to see faces on stage again.”
Going forward, Lopez looks forward to recognizing this year’s senior players – flautist Nana Hayami and harpists Joshua Lin and Gillian King – during the spring semester.
“I kind of honor the seniors who really gave of their time and commitment to the Orchestra by allowing some of them to play a solo piece with the Orchestra – a concerto, they are called. Lopez said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
While Lopez is optimistic about the next semester, he also wants to allow the Orchestra and other student instrumentalists to recover after a difficult time for many in the college community.
“For all of us, but especially for those who do the arts, you have to have some type of communication energy,” Lopez said. “I would like continued emotional and spiritual healing for the students. “
Even in the face of many challenges this semester, Lopez commends the student instrumentalists for their dedication to their ensembles and the process of creating live music.
“I think when you live in dark times the tendency is to go completely inward, but when you try to communicate art, especially music that is in the moment and live, you have need some emotional strength, ”Lopez mentioned. “That’s what made last night even more amazing: the Orchestra gave what they had and they did their best. I would like to call them art warriors.