Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MYA's Christmas Concert: Be Festive!

Saturday afternoon, Midwest Young Artist’s Big Band, Choral, and Symphony Orchestra performed their annual Christmas Concert at the Harris Theater downtown. They played exceptionally! When they took the stage, the first thing you noticed was the blinking lights on the bassoons and one of the basses. It looked so cool, and it was impressive that it didn't distract them from their playing. Also, on the wall there were projections of boughs of holly and other neat holiday things.

The orchestra opened with Holiday Overture, a piece by James M. Stephenson. It was an interesting mix of Christmas and Chanukah songs and very different styles of playing from orchestral to jazz to Klezmer and back again. I especially like the Klezmer clarinet solo performed skillfully by Theodore and Andrew. Symphony played stunningly until Big Band joined in with an interesting jazz style. Symphony jumped back in with the low brass leading and lively piccolo glissandos. The composition had a grand ending with the whole orchestra gracefully ending with The First Noel.

The next composition was also by James M. Stephenson and featured the entire bassoon section. It was called BasSoon it will Christmas. While the bassoons were getting set up Dr. Allan Dennis, the head of MYA and Symphony Orchestra’s conductor said that every piece besides Cool Breeze was by Mr. Stephenson, a parent of one of the violins in the Philharmonia Orchestra who is also composer. The piece started with the orchestra and then the Bassoons joined in.  It was a witty mix of Christmas songs and recognizable orchestral themes tied together in droll and interesting ways. I loved how the bassoons played together! It was a really fascinating piece with a lot of cool bassoon parts that probably would never be played by a bassoon normally.

The only piece that wasn’t by Mr. Stephenson was titled Cool Breeze. Right before the Big Band started Mr. Madison showed the audience his love of painful punning, telling us that he chose the composition because of the ‘cool breeze’ outside. I was an interesting jazz piece with lots of solos. My favorite solo was the bass plucking solo. The Big Band played the whole thing marvelously.

The next song was a lovely solo for three violins, Amy, Alan, and Emily. Dr. D said that it was instead of the three kings, it was The Three Strings and that it was a mix of different styles of playing. I loved how at the beginning Amy was playing a gorgeous melodic line and Alan and Emily were playing these really sensational harmonic lines along with her. I was enthralled by the virtuosity of these three violinists. It was really interesting how the different styles mixed together and it was amazing that the violinists could transition so smoothly from style to style.

Three of the choral members, Katey, Rebecca, and Miriam sang during this composition. They each sang a beautiful solo one at a time while the male voices among the instrumentalists were singing “Ba-Boom", "Ba-Boom” the whole time. Many people in the Symphony Orchestra were not Ba-Booming very enthusiastically, but the trumpets seemed to be very consistent in their Ba-Booms.

The Magic of Christmas, which was next, included the whole choral, directed by Gordon Krauspe. It began with a lovely harp solo by Ellie, and then Zachery played an enchanting solo. I really liked the ribbon on his French horn. The horns had a big part and they had an extremely smooth tone throughout. The choral came in and sang with an extremely pure and delightful sound.

Before Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Dr. D told the audience that they had covered just about everything so far in this concert except animals. So it’s just natural that he chose Rudolf to be the penultimate composition of the afternoon. I loved Michael’s trombone solo. There were a couple tap dancers who surprised us and made the concert even more entertaining. It got more and more exciting until the very end where everyone in the orchestra stood up for the finale.

They closed the concert with a fun sing along called A Holly and Jolly Sing-Along, again by Mr. Stephenson. The audience and the choral sang nearly every holiday piece from Deck the Halls to We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It was a great ending for a great concert.

I felt really happy as I walked out of the Harris Theater. I can’t wait for the next MYA concert in February.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ouch! Too Much Practicing!

Friday, MYA's Honors Wind Symphony played a concert with the Newington College Symphonic Winds, an Australian band on tour in the United States. 

Friday morning when I pulled out my clarinet to practice, my forearm really hurt!  It was hard to practice, and suddenly I found that I couldn't play the fast sections at full speed.  This was bad because I was supposed to play in two concerts this weekend!  I called my clarinet teacher, but he didn't answer the phone so I called my piano teacher Barbara.  She said, I had probably hurt myself, because I was practicing too much this week and tensing my arm while I was playing.  She told me to get Aspercreme and a heating pad and not to play my clarinet.

My teacher Dileep called my mom and told her that he would neck strap for the concert that evening.  He said repetitive injuries could be really serious and I had to take it easy.  I put the Aspercreme on my arm and rested with the heating pad until it was time for the concert.

When it came time for the concert, I was feeling a bit better after using the Aspercreme, heating pad, and advil.  I went to the MYA building in Highwood and warmed up in a practice room.  I had forgotten my mouthpiece, so I borrowed one, but it was really hard to use.  The day was not going well.  I was hurting a bit, but it was much better than the morning.  Sandra Wu, the organizer for HWS, told me it was time to start the dress rehearsal.  I went in and sat next to the principal clarinetist of the Newington College Wind Symphony.  He introduced himself to me.  He was really nice and he had a really nice tone on his clarinet.  It was fun rehearsing with the Australian band.  They were really good.  The Newington Wind Symphony left the hall so our Wind Symphony could practice their chamber piece, Old Wine in New Bottles.  It was hard to play with an unfamiliar mouthpiece and my arm was starting to hurt more.

After the rehearsal, we got dinner.  MYA had brought in food for both ensembles.  I ate some food and talked with my friends.  I was a little nervous to meet the kids from the Australian group, because I'm always a little nervous about meeting new people and many of them were a lot older than me.  After dinner, I went and got my tux on, which took me a long time, because it was hard to get the little metal buttons on right.  I went to the concert hall, and I got warmed up.  Dileep, my clarinet teacher, rescued me with a neck strap, because the neck strap would take some of the clarinet's weight off my arm.  My mom came in with my normal mouthpiece, so things were better.

We started the concert.  I played better than earlier in the day, but the neckstrap restricted my movement, making it harder to phrase.  I didn't think I played as well as I could have played.  That made me upset, because I felt like I had let my ensemble down, especially with my big solos in the third and fourth movements.  The rest of Honors Wind Symphony played really well. 

After we finished, the Australians took the stage.  The Newington Big Band played really well.  I especially liked the trumpet solos.  Then the Newington Wind Ensemble played.  They had a nice sound, and they performed really well.

Finally, Honors Wind Symphony and Newington Wind Ensemble joined together to finish the concert with a piece called Variations on a Korean Folk Song by Chance.  I played much better in this piece than in our earlier piece, because I was getting used to the neck strap.  By the time we finished the concert, I was in a lot of pain.  Still, it was a fun concert, even though I had to stay until 10:30 that night because my mom was loading the MYA truck for the Symphony Orchestra Performance tomorrow.  I couldn't help, because my arm hurt so much.

It was fun to meet the Australians in spite of all the problems I was having.  I'm hoping it will heal soon enough that I can play in the Walgreens compeition in 9 days.