Andrew Chase Puja Thapa
Opinions Editor Administrative Executive Editor
Thirteen musicians performed without a conductor at the first concert of the semester put out by the Keene State Music Department.
On March 17, 2021, the Keene State College Music Department held a virtual orchestral concert and it was live streamed on the KSC Redfern Arts Center’s website. The orchestral concert was titled “Dances, Marches, and Spirituals’’. The orchestral pieces that were chosen were “Military Marches, D. 773, No. 1 and No. 2” by Franz Schubert, African American spirituals, “Deep River” and “Go Down, Moses” by Henry T. Burleigh and “Rumanian Folk Dances” by Bela Bartók.
The orchestra director of “Dances, Marches, and Spirituals” was Dr. Paul Grobey. Grobey is also the Assistant Professor of Orchestra and Strings at Keene State College. Grobey described that the most gratifying part of his profession for him is when students or audience members talk to him about how meaningful their experience was with the music. He added, “it’s very validating, and that’s kind of what makes it all worth it.”
One thing that was unique about the orchestra was that it didn’t have a conductor. Grobey conducted the orchestra in rehearsals, however, he ended up playing viola on the final show alongside the rest of the group.
Describing the importance of the conductor Grobey said, “I think oftentimes our impression of the conductor is, is someone who’s up there, waving a stick around… but some of the most important functions of conductors’ job come before the performance.” He added, “So the way I conduct physically, and the way I communicate with them is really focused on training them to be interdependent. To be first independent, and to be responsible.”
Grobey said that the orchestrated group this year was unique as the typical community members couldn’t join them. So Grobey had a big part in arranging the orchestra as well. Grobey took the additional role of revising instrumentation and orchestration, and even creating orchestration.
Grobey had to orchestrate two spirituals on the program, “Deep River” and “Go Down, Moses” as the original pieces were “nothing but voice and piano.” He explained, “I took the notes of the piano, the notes of the vocal part and I put them into an orchestral arrangement.” The orchestra instruments involved were “violins, one viola, one cello, one bass, two horns, one trumpet, one trombone, a flute and clarinet.” He further added, “It’s in this case, it was taking something that was for two musicians and making it for 13 musicians.”
The most rewarding aspect of the orchestra for Grobey was performing the spirituals. He said, “It’s rewarding for them (the student players), because they’re able to really shine at their best when it’s written for them and crafted and tailored to them. And it’s rewarding for me because it gives me a chance to, improve how I orchestrate and to, really strive to showcase their abilities and talents.”
Various students were contacted but were not available to comment.
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