By Louisa Rux
May 22, 2017
They played a great lobby concert, heard an amazing performance by the Oregon Symphony of Dvořák’s cello concerto and the (new) symphony, Aspects of an Elephant, and even heard their names announced from the stage!
On Monday, March 13th, fourteen musicians from Alliance Charter Academy (ACA) performed three pieces for a lobby concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and an afterward concert from the Oregon Symphony. The students were conducted by Jonathan Cheskin and Anna Mersereau, the two conductors of ACA’s Chamber and Orchestra classes. The group played Ashokan Farewell by Jay Ungar, Speckled Hen Overture by William Hofeldt, and The Spirit of Adventure (from the Pixar film Up) by Michael Giacchino.
As to why the lobby concert happened, Mrs. Mersereau claimed, “Playing in busy environments is ‘part of the game’ for musicians who entertain, so it’s a great experience for them. Plus,” Mersereau added, “they are seen in the public eye, which always helps students identify where they fit in society.” This is the second year that ACA has done a lobby concert at the Schnitzer.
The experience is definitely one worth having. “This is a special opportunity to play at the Schnitzer and is a once a year gig, at most!” said Mersereau.
Since the performance was in the lobby of the Schnitzer, a lot of hustle and bustle as well, as a great deal of noise, is to be expected. However, this wasn’t too much of an issue for the musicians.
Grace Pen, one of the five violinists playing, thought, “…as a group, we were a little shaky, since the ability to hear everyone was limited in the space we had.” The noise apparently didn’t affect the group that much, as Mersereau commented, “…they played strongly and focused. They have played the music so many times in rehearsal, that when the pressure’s on, you concentrate more. They know the game!” As far as the music itself goes, Mersereau claimed, “Music is chosen that will elevate the group’s level of playing and presents challenges in both technique as well as expression…For the Schnitzer, Mr. Cheskin and I chose pieces that would compliment the mood of a grand marble entranceway. We also were able to highlight individual players with solo sections within the music.”
As far as the orchestra played as a whole, violinists Grace Pen (fifth grade) and Elitza Toth (ninth grade) thought that the group could have been more prepared. Elitza claimed, “I felt we should have not have done as many pieces as we did,” regarding the preparation of the repertoire. “I personally would rather play two songs excellently than say play five songs with not as many dynamics and togetherness…I think next time we need to do less songs but spend more time on them to polish them perfectly.” Grace felt similarly about the matter, and claimed that the group “…didn’t have much time to practice in between the concert…”
As far as playing individually, Elitza claimed she felt confident and prepared, but Grace claimed she, “…was nervous about a solo I had when we played Ashokan Farewell.” She said this was because she “…switched when my solo starts last minute. But it turned out alright. I think because I was nervous, the ornamentations I added sounded a little more polished because I was focusing very hard on them.”
Despite the nerves, the group still played wonderfully. According to Mersereau, “The students rose to the occasion! They were professional and mature during the performance and rehearsal, as well as respectful and attentive during the Oregon Symphony concert.”
The most important part of any concert is enjoying the music, and both Elitza and Grace had their own piece they enjoyed the most. While Grace said she enjoyed the Spirit of Adventure the most, Elitza’s favorite was the Moldau. “..I loved the piece, I really felt I was part of the Moldau river while I was performing it.”
Both students said they would be a part of the experience again. “The experience is definitely something I would like to do again,” Grace said. “…I enjoyed…when they played the Dvorak cello concert and a world premiere symphony called Aspects of an Elephant. It was very unique and I count it as one of the most amazing experiences of my life.”
Mersereau, Anna. “ACA Schnitzer Lobby Concert.” Message to the author. 27 Apr. 2017. E-mail.
Toth, Elitza. “ACA Schnitzer Lobby Concert.” Message to the author. 17 May 2017. E-mail.
Pen, Grace. “ACA Schnitzer Lobby Concert.” Message to the author. 21 May 2017. E-mail.