by Jane Salemson.
This afternoon in the Auditorium of the North Carolina School of Science and Math in Durham, 234 young musicians (strings, winds, brass, and percussion) chosen from 400+ students who auditioned, performed in two orchestras, the String and the Symphonic. Of these, 41 were cellists.
Most of these students come from public schools, a few from private schools or Home schooling. Some have private lessons, but many do not, and it's a tribute to the orchestra directors and teachers of their work in preparing the students for this challenging event.
The String Orchestra was conducted by Dr. Peter Askim who was impressed with the concentration and hard work the students put into rehearsing a varied program which showed off the skills they had worked on so diligently over the weekend.
The program started with the String Orchestra playing the Star-Spangled Banner conducted by Joli Brooks, Eastern Regional Orchestra Chair. It was followed by
three works, "Idyll" by Leos Janacek, in 3 movements, a work by Peter Askim "As Glaciers Thaw" and an unpublished arrangement of Astor Piazzolla's "Libertango" by Thomas Kalb. All three works were different from each other, showing off lovely legato melodic lines, tight rhythms and challenging techniques (quite a lot of fast treble clef passages for the cellos in the Janacek!) It was a fine string orchestra performance, and very enjoyable.
The Symphony Orchestra had fewer strings, but still there were 19 cellists! Many of the students were older than the String orchestra players, and it was good to hear the musical development those extra years gave to their playing. The program was another demanding one for the Symphonic orchestra with Dvorak's Slavonic Dance #8, the Masquerade Suite by Aram Khachaturian (5 stirring movements) and Bizet's Farandole from the L'Arlesienne Suite # 2. The conductor was Dr. Jorge Richter. He kept up the momento in the fast movements and the rhythms were tight, very well-bowed by the strings and great articulation by the winds, brass and percussion. The program was exciting, together with some lovely melodic lines in the slow movements, especially in the Nocturne in which the concertmaster Emma Garval, played a beautiful solo for almost the whole movement. On this stage, her sound, which was very sweet and well phrased, did not project hugely, but the orchestra did not overpower her and the effect was lovely.
Margot Hollman in her welcoming speech to the audience, thanked the orchestra directors, private teachers and parents and urged parents to support their children who were interested in making a career in music. She said in spite of all the cuts in schools, music thrives, and in the work world there are many opportunities for music careers. Good to hear that in these times of cuts in the Arts, and to admire and enjoy an afternoon of lovely music well played.