Evergreen Philharmonic Baroque Festival 2007


The Evergreen Philharmonic Orchestra is a student orchestra consisting of the best high school musicians in the Issaquah School District.† Last weekend I attended their annual Baroque Festival, although there was only one Baroque piece on the program. (False advertising, maybe, but I'll let it slide.) Why was I at a high school student concert? Did I know somebody in the orchestra? Nope. A group of us attended because many of the members in the orchestra are former students of my friend the seventh grade teacher, and I figured it'd be interesting.

Of course, since it's a high school student orchestra, you have to set your expectations accordingly. What I wasn't expecting was how tentatively most of the students performed; it was as if they were scared of the music. I'll have to chalk that up to performance anxiety. The orchestra started playing with more confidence once we reached the part of the concert where the orchestra took the role of accompanist to various soloists, ironically, the moment at which the orchestra needed to play more subdued!

Not everyone responded to the pressure by playing softly. One‡ of the soloists responded by rushing through a cadenza faster than I've ever heard it played before. Oh, and a little performance tip for the other two soloists: Resist the urge to have a chat during the first soloist's big cadenza.

Aside: When I was a student, I recall being nervous up there on stage, but once each piece started, I entered some heightened state of focus, and the audience simply disappeared. I remember once, between pieces, I peeked out into the audience, and it was so scary, I promised never to do it again.

One student emerged as the standout. The second piece on the concert, the Scherzo from Dvořák's Serenade for Strings, was performed without a conductor, but I noticed that the first violinist was practically motionless. How was he managing to keep the ensemble together? Then I noticed two other performers who were noticeably more expressive. One was a bit too expressive, as if dancing to a piece of pop music secretly piped in via headphones. The other was the lead violist, who clearly was the one in charge. She cued the tempo changes, telegraphed entrances, and generally did the work of keeping the group together. She was a soloist for the next piece, and her talent really shone. She played with confidence and poise, and it was hardly a surprise to read in the program that she is heading off to college on a viola scholarship.

I've made a note to check up in about four years to see if she's made a name for herself.

Nitpicker's corner

†s/musicians/orchestral musicians/. I mean, it's an orchestra. Did I really have to clarify that?

‡Students are not named due to their age.

Comments (7)
  1. Anonymous says:

    You seem to enjoy a lot of quality music.

    Do you have a hi-resolution sound system such as SACD or DVD-Audio?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Do you still pursue performing/playing in a local group ? (active versus passive attending other performances). And what instrument(s) did you play ?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The most amazing thing is that you made a note for something to do in 4 years.  I don’t know where I could put a note that would remind me in 4 years.   I guess if I ever get transported to far in the past and need to save myself by sending future me a warning, I’m screwed.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Just make an Outlook reminder dated in 2011.  I’m guessing that Raymond keeps a continuous ".pst" that goes from computer to computer when he upgrades.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m consistently amazed at some of the things that are pre-emptively addressed in the nitpicker’s corner. Might I suggest that anyone who feels it answers important issues stay where they belong by reading other blogs instead, such as Steve Gillmor’s or Dave Whiner’s?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks, Raymond, for telling it like it is (was). Kids need adults to be honest about their strengths and weaknesses.

    I’m curious to know whether the audience gave a standing ovation. In my community (central PA) this is standard procedure at every high school concert. When I remain seated, everybody looks at me like I’m a schmuck.

    If we give every performance a standing ovation, then how are we supposed to act when we hear something truly great? All of the superlatives in our spoken and body languages are becoming meaningless.

    Oh yeah, every student gets a 95% in band or chorus if they just show up. 100% if they try out for districts. I’m not making this up.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Tentative playing is always an issue for strings.

    I’ve just been to a local youth players gala performance, with the age and experience of the players increasing during the evening. The younger players bow slowly and carefully, giving a horrible grating sound on quiet pieces, or on muted entries. The older players seem to bow with more gusto, and have a cleaner sound as a result.

    There does seem to be this dread of being first – I suspect a row of musicians wait for one to come in, and then pile in afterwards. Yuk!

    (experience – never progressing beyond 3rd Clarinet in a Junior Band many years ago).

Comments are closed.