Sunday, April 14, 2013

Strings Attached

It was the Big String Concert last Thursday, here in Our Little Town.

Every year all of the students in town who play string instruments – from violins up to double-string bass – gather together in one spot for an evening of music.  Invariably, this happens on a night where I can’t attend.  One year it was because I was teaching class.  Another year it was because I had another obligation down at Home Campus, though I did manage to duck out and catch the end of that show.  Not the part with Tabitha in it, unfortunately, but what can you do.

This year I got to go!

The way it works is that they divide the students by age group.  All of the fifth-grade musicians, from whatever schools, are lumped together in one orchestra.  There is also a sixth-grade orchestra, a seventh-grade orchestra, an eight-grade orchestra, and one consolidated high school orchestra.  The orchestras get smaller as you go up in age, which is kind of a shame but that’s what happens as kids get older and more things compete for their time.  Each orchestra gets to do one song, and then they do a big combined number at the end.

This year they changed the setting a bit. 

Usually all this happens, as one might expect, in an auditorium.  Each orchestra does its thing, and then they go back into the house while the next orchestra shuffles onstage.  This year, some logistical genius figured out that if everyone was onstage at the same time they could eliminate all the shuffling.  All they would have to do would be to point the audience’s attention at the correct orchestra.

Don’t laugh.  That’s not an easy task in a nation where 47% of the electorate still thinks you can increase income by cutting revenue.  Getting people to focus their attention where it needs to be can be a trick sometimes.

The other question, of course, is where you are going to put such a collection of orchestras.  It’s not like you’re dealing with garage bands, who take up an average of six square feet not including the amps.  Orchestras are rather larger than that, pretty much by definition.

Yes, the basketball court.

This turned out to be a capital suggestion, by the way.  Everyone was there.  They never dimmed the lights, so all the parents could take pictures without having to use their flash (except for one idiot in the corner, because there is always one idiot who thinks rules don’t apply to them).  It’s got a hardwood floor, so the acoustics are pretty good.  You could see everyone all the time, including your own child, since that’s what you came for anyway – and a basketball court is sufficiently wide that you could sit directly in front of your own child’s orchestra and still see everyone else.  And no shuffling, which meant the concert was all music, no logistics, and over in about half the time.  Genius!

Of course, the drawback is that a basketball court has seating on both sides, so if you sat on the wrong side all you saw were the backs of people’s heads.  But whose fault was that?

Let me tell you, whoever thought of moving this concert there should get some kind of award.

The concert itself was a grand time.  They cycled through the orchestras in age order, with the youngest first.  Tabitha’s orchestra played a Russian folks song, which went very well although she was more interested in the high school’s rendition of the Mission Impossible theme.  It’s a goal, then.

It was a very nice night.  Good job, Tabitha.  I'm proud of you.


TimBo said...

It is my contention that the number of each type of musician in a stringed orchestra follows the laws of supply and demand. Violinists are cheap and can be found begging on corners therefore there are a lot of them. Base players are expensive and hard to find therefore there are only one or two of them. Cellists are somewhere in the middle.

This is all I know about music, other than I like to listen to it. Also, musicians are temperamental and best avoided.

Dr. Phil (Physics) said...

Greensboro NC would do a similar massed band concert -- the one year the joint piece was the 1812 Overture, with the high school symphonic band playing and everyone else joining in for the pealing of the bells and the cannonade. Great fun.

Dr. Phil