Band and Orchestra Transport Audience ‘Across the Pond’ for Fall Concert


Tyler Kim

Instrumental teacher Desmond Stevens conducts the symphonic orchestra. Developing a strong community of musicians is crucial as concerts require strong teamwork skills from all performers. “I think that [symphonic band] is a lot more supportive than other bands I’ve been in where they critique you if you mess up,” freshman Saurin Mody said.

A somber yet elegant array of notes drifts from the stage – exuding complexity and communication among sections – followed moments later by a suddenly triumphant and whimsical melody which captivates the audience. 

All nine pieces by four performing groups held on Oct. 7 in the performing arts center seamlessly blended into the instrumental concert’s theme, “Across the Pond.”

The titular phrase of the concert is an idiom used to describe traveling between America and Britain, a theme that is thoughtfully woven into the concert’s selection of pieces alternating from both American and British composers, according to instrumental music teacher Desmond Stevens. 

With the concert’s theme came new opportunities to showcase elaborate pieces, such as “An American Elegy,” a hopeful instrumental piece written by American composer Frank Ticheli in memory of those who lost their lives in the 1999 Columbine High shooting. The talented band and orchestra mesmerized the audience, delivering a solemn performance that paid tribute to the honorary piece and demonstrated an extensive range of musical skills.

“Our goal as performers, as an ensemble in full, is to offer something for the audience to not necessarily just enjoy but to experience, so offering the audience a moment of reflection,” Stevens said. “In the case of ‘An American Elegy,’ it’s to offer the audience a moment of travel and transportation.”

With such a complex selection of pieces came a distinctive set of challenges as well. Each group of performers had a challenging piece that took extensive practice to fully grasp and was highly demanding of them, according to Stevens.

For concertmaster, violinist and senior Jayden Yeung, the fall concert was an opportunity to showcase the collaborative efforts the orchestra made during the first month of the new school year. 

“I would say, we’ve kind of developed this sense of togetherness,” Yeung said. “I think that in orchestra, we kind of consider ourselves one entity.”

For symphonic orchestra, the chosen American piece, “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber, was lush with melancholy, whereas the chosen British piece, “Suite for Strings” by John Rutter, contained allusions to upbeat European folk tunes such as “O Waly Waly,” according to Yeung. 

As the first band and orchestra concert of the school year, freshmen were able to experience playing alongside other talented performers for the first time, according to trumpet player and freshman Mody.

“I thought it was kind of nerve-wracking because it was my first performance here,” Mody said. “But it was pretty fun because it was a big step up from any other band I’ve played.”

Preparing for the concert was a long and evolutionary process, according to Stevens. The performing arts teacher considered the musical abilities of the students and chose a relevant theme the audience would appreciate.

“One of the things in this concert cycle we talked about was that music is a service,” Stevens said. “Every time we play music, we are doing it in the service of our audience.”