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Conducted by music professor Paul Grobey, members of the Keene State Orchestra performing in the Main Theatre in the Redfern Arts Center on Wednesday, November 3.

KSC’s Orchestra holds its first performance of the season

Keene State College’s Orchestra returned this year with a full ensemble for the first time since pre-COVID.

Orchestra held its first performance of the season on November 3 in the Main Theatre at the Redfern. The group is not only made up of KSC students, but also faculty members and community members from around the Monadnock region.

“I love the pieces that we had. It was like a great combination of our work throughout the semester, so I thought it went really well,” violinist Ryan Bloomberg said.

The group has been rehearsing since the start of the Fall 2021 semester, practicing together twice a week. Each of these rehearsals is dedicated to polishing up each piece and getting the orchestra performance-ready.

“The goal is that every rehearsal, we sound better and better and more comfortable,” orchestra conductor Paul Grobey said.

On the Main Theatre stage, players were spaced out, standing or sitting three feet apart. However, this spacing did not debilitate the performers’ ability to hear each other and play harmoniously.

“An orchestra hears itself better the closer together everybody is. [But] I wouldn’t say it’s been debilitating in any way,” Grobey said.

In addition to spacing, performers were wearing masks throughout the duration of the performance.

The ensemble performed a total of four pieces. The repertoire included an overture by composer Emilie Mayer, which accounted for the piece’s New Hampshire debut.

“I think we’re the first to play it, certainly in New Hampshire and probably one of the first groups to play in the U.S.,” Grobey said.

Violinist Emilia Toth said the Mayer piece was a good opportunity to highlight music by female composers. “I’m really interested in a lot of female classical music composers, because they don’t get seen as often and [for] a lot of them, men take credit for them,” Toth said. “It was really cool to be able to advocate for [Mayer] in a way by playing her piece and like making it known. That was something really, really special to me.”

Orchestra also performed a string symphony by Bohemian composer Johann Stamitz. Grobey described how the piece compares to similar string symphonies of the time period, “The Stamitz is in three movements, and it’s no longer associated with the opera in this period. It’s its own genre, but it’s only three movements. The typical symphony has four movements.”

The Stamitz piece was performed by just the string section of the orchestra. Grobey played alongside the performers for the three Stamitz movements.

A highlight for many of the performers was the two final pieces by composer Vasily Kalinnikov.

“Those were the best for me only because I worked the hardest on those,” Bloomberg said. “We all worked really hard to get our parts together, so when it finally came together, we were like, ‘Oh, that was so good.’ So that was probably my favorite.”

Toth shared similar sentiments, “I think we finished really strong with those, it was a good feeling. And I’ve talked to a lot of people who feel the same. It was really cool to be able to finish that strongly.”

Last year, Orchestra performed with only 12 members due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Due to restrictions regarding off-campus visitors, the ensemble was limited to only those registered for the Orchestra course and those in the college’s testing pool.

The smaller ensemble required Grobey to make adjustments to how the ensemble is run. “Last year, I was arranging a lot of music for that specific ensemble of students to try and deliver a course that was engaging and meaningful, and fun, and had great performance events. And I think we did that.” Grobey said.

However, Grobey added, “There’s no comparison at the end of the day to having a more full room of musicians.”

The November 3 performance was the first time the full ensemble has gotten the chance to perform together since fall 2019. “This has been a nice reunion,” Grobey said.

Orchestra performed in front of a live audience, which clarinet player Angel Martino said had a positive impact on the group’s performance. “The biggest thing is just having an audience at all,” Martino said. “I feel like it made our playing just kind of come together.”

For Bloomberg, last week’s performance marked the end of his time with the Keene State Orchestra. Bloomberg was acknowledged at the performance along with two other students for it being their final performance with the ensemble.

“Honestly, it didn’t hit me until he said it, until he was having me stand up… I was like ‘Oh my goodness, this is the last one,’” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg added, “I felt really accomplished. It was sad, but more like, this was good.”

On the opposite end, Toth made her Orchestra debut during the performance. Toth said she immediately felt accepted and welcomed in the group.

“Music is just something that brings people together in a really great way. So it’s been a great experience. I love every single person I’ve gotten to play with,” Toth said.

Anyone interested in joining KSC’s Orchestra should contact paul.grobey@keene.edu.

 

Caitlin Howard can be contacted at

choward@kscequinox.com

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