Common Chords: Grand Rapids

A “Suite” Experience

Courtney Lewis arrived in Grand Rapids Thursday afternoon to lead the 38-member Itasca Youth Chamber Orchestra in a side-by-side rehearsal with Minnesota Orchestra musicians focusing on Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite.

Fourteen-year-old Maggie Anderson, a ninth-grade cellist and resident of Bigfork, MN, is our guest blogger this week, writing about her experiences and interactions with the Orchestra over the course of the Common Chords project.

The IOSP Youth Orchestra workshop with conductor Courtney Lewis was fantastic! With his help, we seemed to go from missed accidentals and underplayed dynamics to pieces that felt nearly performance-ready. We worked on St. Paul’s Suite by Gustav Holst and Haydn’s Surprise Symphony. In both pieces, Courtney gave us tips on how to play together and listen to each other as an orchestra.

In St. Paul’s Suite, we were told to imagine the peasants working in the countryside. Courtney said that this kind of music seemed to narrate how they went about their daily lives. He also made sure that the whole orchestra breathed together on the upbeat before starting so that we would all come in at the same time.  He told us about a recording he conducted with a professional orchestra where they had to edit out the starting “sniff” as they began!  In addition to our conductor’s instruction, we had a Minnesota Orchestra member helping us out in each section. They gave us great suggestions and pointers on bowing, finger positions, and notes. Lucky for us, they just kept smiling even though things weren’t totally perfect.

After St. Paul’s Suite, we worked on the Surprise Symphony until the clock ran out. That piece really made us have to breathe together. Courtney also took it a little faster than usual to our great relief. The first section of the piece has a very slow and quiet tempo followed by a single quarter note marked fortissimo. Courtney explained that Haydn dearly loved to add those little “jokes” to his pieces.  In fact, he had recently conducted a piece by Haydn where there were a few “false endings”.  The audience would burst into applause and then quickly stop, a little embarrassed. Courtney said, “It’s the oldest musical joke that still works,” and I must agree that it made us laugh, too.

-Maggie Anderson

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

Discovery and Wonder

Two Kinder Konzerts—lively narrated programs for pre-schoolers—reached upwards of 300 youngsters at the Grand Rapids Public Library and Reif Center on Thursday.  “I‘m sure it made more of an impression than we know,” said Mary Kosak, program officer at the Blandin Foundation. “Maybe twenty years from now one of them will be up on that same stage.”

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

Crisscrossing Grand Rapids

Day three of the Orchestra’s Common Chords residency featured events spanning the city from one end to the other: from performances for patients at the spacious Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital to chamber music at the library and brass tunes at the MacRostie Art Center.

In a luncheon event sponsored by Second Harvest and KOOTASCA, musicians performed for seniors, students and lower income community members at St. Joseph’s Church.  A musical highlight at many of the sites:  Somewhere Over the Rainbow, a song made famous by Grand Rapids native Judy Garland.

Fourteen-year-old Maggie Anderson, a ninth-grade cellist and resident of Bigfork, MN, is our guest blogger this week, writing about her experiences and interactions with the Orchestra over the course of the Common Chords project.

I’d like everybody to know that the Minnesota Orchestra chamber concert at St. Joseph’s Church was completely awesome! The string quartet performed two excellent pieces in the first half of the concert. They were followed by the brass quintet who played a selection that included themes from West Side Story. During the faster piece, America, some of the students from St. Joseph’s School had silent mini rock-out sessions in their seats and a few even tried their hand at conducting. They were very well-behaved and I could see that they enjoyed the concert. The acoustics in the church were fantastic and the musicians pointed this out. I loved how they moved with the music and how they played together with such precision.

After the concert, I volunteered to help out with the luncheon in the church dining area. I thought that it was really cool how the musicians spread out and ate at different tables so that they could meet people from the community. Many people who attended the concert were seniors and I’m sure they appreciated that the musicians took time to share conversation.

I’m left thinking about something that the French Horn player, Herb Winslow, said while introducing a piece that was three hundred years old. He turned to the kids in the audience and asked them to imagine what it would be like to write a piece of music that would still be played three hundred years from now. I must say that I agree with what he thought it would be like: mind-blowing!

-Maggie Anderson

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

The Orchestra arrives in Grand Rapids!

The full orchestra arrived in Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon, and wasted little time before getting down to business with a rehearsal at the Reif Center for the week’s final concerts. View the full schedule of concerts this weekend by visiting our Common Chords calendar of events.

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

“We are richer when we share.”

Minnesota Orchestra players shared a warm cultural exchange with members of the Ojibwe community last night in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, as part of the Orchestra’s Common Chords project.

The evening opened with a taco and fry bread feast before Orchestra musicians unpacked their instruments and offered music by Dvorák and the New Orleans Rhythm Kings. Ojibwe dancers, wearing traditional regalia, took the gym floor next in a whirling demonstration of tribal drumming and intertribal dances. The conclusion: a circle dance involving everyone. “Our communities are richer when we share,” said Daniel Curry, who led the Ojibwe presentation—and then offered an Ojibwe farewell. “Giga-waabamin, we’ll see you again.”

 

View more photos from our residency in Grand Rapids on our Facebook page.

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