Tuesday, August 6, 2013

WYSO, Week 4

Week 4 was another fantastic week. Jung-Ho Pak was once again at the podium, this time leading the orchestra through a performance of an NPR Medley and Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony.

The NPR Medley was a fun piece because we had the composer, B.J. Liederman, with us. He attended rehearsals, provided his expertise, and played piano with the orchestra.

Composer B.J. Liederman with the World Youth Symphony Orchestra

There was a major logistical issue with this concert, as the piano had to move from the front of the stage for the NPR Medley to the back of the stage for the Shostakovich. A stage change like this is always challenging, but this case was extreme because there was no intermission!

The process required violinists to leave their seats very quickly at the conclusion of the NPR Medley so that the stage crew could move all of their chairs and stands out of the way (there were 32 chairs and 16 stands!) and move the piano to the back of the stage. The stage crew then had to reset the violin section and the violinists had to retake their seats and get re-situated very quickly to begin the Shostakovich.

It was a complicated process that was originally estimated to require twenty minutes. However, the stage crew is absolutely fantastic and, after a few test runs, more than halved that estimate.

Mid-stage change
Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony was the piece that most excited the musicians. From the very first day of camp, they were practicing those excerpts in hopes of claiming a seat in WYSO for the performance. During the first few weeks of camp, students would come to the library and study Shostakovich, rather than the pieces that they were supposed to be preparing to perform that week. When the first rehearsal finally arrived, energy levels were very, very high. The musicians had been looking forward to this for weeks, and that enthusiasm was obvious.

As always, Maestro Pak did a fantastic job of teaching the students about the piece and its background. The Fifth Symphony is subtitled, "A Soviet Artist's Response to Just Criticism." Following the premiere of the opera Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, Shostakovich's work had been denounced by Stalin and the Communist Party. Fearing for his life, he wrote his Fifth Symphony to appease them. While the symphony was successful in pleasing both the Communist Party and the Soviet public, there is irony hidden throughout.

It was a great learning opportunity for the kids, and they put together a great concert. I was really proud to be a part of it.

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