Concert plays on performers’ strengths

Eighty community members gathered for the fourth annual Winter Concert to hear the school’s orchestra and jazz groups perform a variety of pieces that highlighted their specific musical strengths, Orchestra Director Brian Reasoner and Jazz Director Pandelis Karayorgis said.

The December 8 concert, featuring 27 performers, started at 7:00 p.m. in the Theater, when the orchestra launched its performance with Franz Joseph Haydn’s four-movement “Symphony 101 (The Clock),” a piece Mr. Reasoner said he chose because of the orchestra’s strong woodwind section.

“This was the first time this symphony had been performed by a BB&N group, as we needed to have the right balance of strong winds and brass along to go with a strong string section,” he said. “We don’t often perform works by Haydn, and it had been about 10 years since we last played a work by him.”

Mr. Reasoner said he thought the orchestra’s performance of the symphony went well. Additionally, for the first time in school history, the orchestra featured two French horn players, giving the ensemble what Mr. Reasoner called “a more authentic sound.”

“It was a difficult piece to prepare, but I think the performers enjoyed working on it and gained a greater respect for Haydn as a composer,” he said.

Stanley Gao ’20, who has played in the orchestra for two years, said he thought that the addition of timpanist Agnes Coakley ’04 during the final practices and performance lent the orchestra rhythm that had been missing previously.

“[This performance] was one of our best renditions of the symphony yet,” he said.

The spotlight then shifted to the Chorale Room, where the Freshman, Monday night, and Tuesday night Jazz Ensembles each performed a wide selection of pieces, including Miles Davis’ “So What,” Charles Mingus’ “Haitian Fight Song,” and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.” Each group also played a piece by jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk to commemorate his 100th birthday. Mr. Karayorgis said he chose this year’s pieces based on how well they fit the instrumentation and musical profile of the players in each ensemble.

“The Monday group that has six horns, most of whom are good readers and improvisers, is suitable for complex, polyphonic arrangements with advanced chord structures to improvise over,” he said. “The Tuesday group has a versatile rhythm section but a trickier instrumental line-up, with duplicate pianos and guitars, that requires different material.”

Mr. Karayorgis named “Cantaloupe Island,” “Dizzy Moods,” and “Take The ‘A’ Train” as pieces that stood out, attributing the ensembles’ success to their chemistry and skill level.

“We have some terrific group interaction among some of the ninth-grade musicians,” he said. “They really can listen to each other and build good solo or exchange ideas together.”

“In the evening groups, we have a few gifted musicians that played very good solos,” he added.

Saxophone and piano player Jonah Levis ’19 played with both the Freshman and Tuesday Night Ensembles.

“It got a little hectic when I was trying to switch from saxophone to piano in between songs, but everything went fine, and the ensembles played well,” he said.

Audience member Lena Rhie ’20 said she was impressed with all of the performances.

“I was amazed at how everyone came together to create such wonderful music,” she said. “I was blown away by the senior jazz band [the Monday night group]. Their years of playing together showed in their complex pieces.”

Barbara Denton P’13 ’18, whose daughter, Lily Denton ’18, plays saxophone in the Monday night group, said this concert was especially good.

“My favorite BB&N event is the Winter Concert,” she said. “The students this year were so talented, and each one got a chance to showcase their individual style. Mr. Karayorgis and Mr. Reasoner did a great job with song selection and bringing out the best in each performer.”

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