Orchestra and Chorale concert blends cell phones and Beethoven

Alongside departing Head of School Rebecca Upham, over 100 parents, siblings, students, and faculty turned out for the spring concert of Upper School (US) musicians on May 6. The program featured composers ranging from Bernstein to Beethoven, with a little Mozart added in for good measure, Chorale Director Joe Horning said. 

Held annually at Grace Episcopal Church in Newton, the concert began with the orchestra’s performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which Sophie Chadha ’21 said she and other musicians in the group found challenging. But Orchestra Director Brian Reasoner said the group was advanced enough to handle it.

“I thought everyone played with energy and excitement,” Mr. Reasoner said. “The focus kept by the students for 45 minutes is a testament to the depth and chemistry of the group this year.” 

Violinist Alex Wu ’21 said the performance left a lasting and joyful impression on him, especially because of the ensemble’s teamwork.

“All the instruments melted together to create a well-organized, beautiful performance,” he said.

Former orchestra member Agnes Coakley Cox ’04, who performed on the cello with the ensemble, said she was impressed by the students’ ability to play such a complex piece. 

“It was particularly fun this spring to revisit Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, which I played at BB&N as a freshman,” she said. “I think it really says a lot that the BB&N orchestra tackled it successfully.”

To honor the hundredth birthday of Leonard Bernstein, Mr. Horning said, the chorale sang selections from West Side Story, the composer’s most famous work.

“A number of singers in the ensemble already knew the songs from seeing the movie or watching the Broadway production,” Mr. Horning said.  

 Chorale also performed “Sympathy” by Bruno Ruviaro and Scot Hanna-Weir, in which students harmonized with bird noises from a chorus of cell phones. Professional soprano Adriana Repetto, who teaches voice students from the school, sang a solo during the piece. 

Mr. Horning said “Sympathy” was challenging because it required a different sound spectrum than the group was accustomed to.

“Logistically, the piece was hard to work through,” he added, “especially making sure that all the members of the ensemble could stream their particular electronic bird call.” 

Chorale member Lily Brown ’19 also recognized the difficulty of the song and said she was proud of the performance.

“It took amazing coordination and a lot of practice to get the timing down,” she said.

Following the chorale, the male and female a capella groups—the Voices of the Knight and the Knightingales—belted out  three songs each, including recent hits such as “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars and “Sunday Candy” by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment.

Chorale returned to the stage and closed the concert by performing “Birdland” by Joe Zawinul alongside three jazz instrumentalists: Nicholas Tao  ’21 on drums, Simru Sonmez-Erbil  ’20 on electric bass, and Henry Goddard ’20 on the grand piano.

“The ensemble performed beautifully, especially with such difficult music,” Mr. Horning said. 

Mr. Horning concluded the event with a tribute to Ms. Upham.

“She’s been a great supporter and advocate for the musicians here at BB&N, and she’s come to nearly all of the major concerts,” Mr. Horning said.

Violinist Tessa Haining ’19 said she was touched that Ms. Upham and other school faculty came to the event.

“It was really kind that they could take time out of their weekend to see another important part of their students’ lives,” she said.

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