Almost a week ago now, members of the WMU University Symphony Orchestra had our “conductor-less concert” as part of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra residency. On the program was Igor Stravinsky’s Octet for Wind Instruments, Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite (Mvts. I, II, and III), Stravinsky’s Suite No. 1 for Small Orchestra, and movements III and IV of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 104.
It was an ambitious program, not so much because of repertoire but because of the rehearsal process. With no centralized figure of authority, each member of the ensemble is individually responsible for what the conductor normally does. Decisions about tempo, what to rehearse, how to rehearse, and critically listening skills are decided upon democratically. Luckily for us, we were able to draw upon the experience and expertise of Orpheus Chamber Orchestra members who coached us through the experience.
On Friday night, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra took the stage in a glorious concert including the Mozart Clarinet Concerto with soloist Martin Fröst. While I enjoyed everything that the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra program had to offer, this was my favorite. I’m sure that everyone also has “musical association syndrome”, that is to say, that when you hear a specific piece or song, you are connected to a memory or idea. When I hear the opening of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto’s second movement, I think of Karen Blixen on her coffee plantation at the foot of the Ngong Hills, aka, the film 1985 Out of Africa starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. Fröst’s rendition is stunningly beautiful and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra fits like a glove.
A special thanks to the WMU School of Music administration, faculty, and leaders from our student core for a great experience. Also, a thanks to cellist and artistic director Jonathan Spitz for the cello lesson and violinist Martha Caplin for her work with the strings sections.
In other news, I’ve had a couple people mention that they heard me on the radio they other day. I got to do a concert promo with Bruce Uchimura at the WMUK station hosted by Cara Lieurance. There was definitely a point in the interview where I meant to say the word “part” and I said the would “fart”. Thank you Cara for editing that out!