Academy Symphony: Music That Tells A Story

While Saturday’s games against Deerfield Academy had the athletes’ parents on their toes, Friday was a riveting night for the parents of Phillips Academy’s musicians. Dozens of parents from all over the world marched inside Cochran Chapel’s double-doors, eager to taste a sampling of Phillips Academy’s talent. The audience quickly packed the chapel halls, anticipating one night of awe-inspiring performances. After having come a long way, the parents’ insatiable desire to hear the school’s best pieces was not fulfilled when the Academy Concert Band began the night with a commonplace opening performance. The band played a piece by William Bryd: “The Earl of Oxford’s March.” Despite the piece’s simplicity, the sounds of each wind instrument, which should have sounded cohesive, all blended into a chaotic jumble. The clarinets were frequently out of tune, and their contradicting waves clashed and screeched like a metal fork running across a chalkboard. Perhaps the opening notes’ relative discombobulation was due to pressure from the audience, however. The band later regained order and successfully pulled off the piece. Following the Concert Band, the Corelli Orchestra, Amadeus Ensemble, Academy Band and Chamber Orchestra skillfully performed their pieces, displaying their hard work and musicianship. “I really thought all of the [pieces] were chosen well…They flowed really well together,” said Carina Elgin ’76, after enjoying the array of Phillips Academy’s musical talent. The concert progressed quickly, with each piece followed by a more difficult one, leaving the audience in anticipation for the next songs. The audience gradually got into the groove and listened with attentive ears, amazed by Phillips Academy’s ability to showcase such musical ability. The performance by the Academy Symphony Orchestra closed the night with grand and showy playing. This group of musicians, conducted by James Orent, performed the first and last movements of Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46, Grieg’s renowned masterpiece. “Morning Mood,” the first movement, familiar to most listeners’ ears, depicted the beautiful and graceful rising of the sun. The principal flautist Andrew Ang ’09 and principal oboist began the piece exchanging solos above the subtle accompaniment of the string instruments. Although the solos were pleasing and relaxing to hear, for the soloists, trying to play Grieg’s Sunrise was a nightmare. Playing it accurately, evenly and emotionally, especially in front of a giant audience who knew the piece by heart, was terrifying, but all of the soloists managed to keep up with the orchestra. The principal clarinetist, Jack You ’10, later said, “We were worried because [“Morning Mood” and “In the Hall of the Mountain King”] are such famous pieces…But we worked really hard, and they came out great.” The orchestra then played the fourth movement, “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” They were again able to show a small motion clip using only sound: the wicked mountain king stomping through his enormous halls. The piece began with two bassoons playing very low notes to resemble the stomping of the troll, and the piece finalized with the orchestra blasting the music through every corner of the chapel; the troll ended in a rampage. After the two movements, the orchestra performed a rapid, energizing polka by Johann Strauss Jr. The blasting of the tympani and horns soon had the audience clapping to the beat. Elaine Kuoch ’11 said, “Mr. Orent involved the audience and made it fun for them. They found it really exciting and it was hilarious when he gave a ‘six’ when they clapped the beat correctly.” Kaki Elgin ’09 said, “I got lots of comments on how [the] symphony blew away the audience. But, I think the symphony will even be better in three weeks… we will add on Beethoven Egmont Overture and Strauss 1st Horn Concerto.” Attention Phillips Academy—be sure to stay tuned for the symphony’s next great show. Steve Kim is the principal oboist for the Academy Symphony Orchestra.