A Spring Journey
There is a sense of familiarity that comes with performing in an ensemble. From the conversations before rehearsals to the dinners after performances, there is plenty of time to bond as both musicians and as friends. This bonding not only improves the enjoyment of performing, but can improve the musicality of the ensemble, as members are more willing to communicate and work together as they play. While regular concerts and rehearsals help the ensemble grow together over time, a tour can dramatically heighten the musical and social familiarity between the musicians. Even as a temporary member of the ensemble, a tour thrusts you into the middle of an ensemble’s traditions and quirks as you play concert after concert. Over this past spring break, I was able to immerse myself in the Wind Orchestra as we performed in Arizona during our tour “A Lenten Journey”
This immersion started long before we flew out to Arizona. As we prepared our repertoire, I focused on adapting to the technical and musical focuses of the ensemble. While part of this adaptation involved familiarizing myself with the conducting style of the Wind Orchestra’s director, Professor James Ripley, most of the process centered around adjusting to the differences between a symphonic orchestra and wind ensemble. At first, I focused on more technical concerns, such as accounting for various tuning tendencies when playing with certain instruments or learning how to better project my sound through the ensemble—which could easily overpower my cello’s sound—but I was eventually able to delve into the nuances regarding the styles of the pieces and the ensembles as whole. What made this process particularly enjoyable was the diversity of repertoire, which allowed me to continually explore different aspects of my playing throughout the rehearsal process.
While this preparation helped build my musical familiarity with the ensemble, it was not until the tour itself that I really started immersing myself socially into the Wind Orchestra. Starting with an early morning departure, there was always an underlying buzz of conversations, jokes, and snoring. From the meals between events to simply sharing a hotel room with other musicians, there was always an opportunity to talk with each other. Even preparing for performances at our various venues had us working together—and joking around—as we moved the necessary equipment around to best suit the space.
Even though we performed every day, most of our time was spent exploring Phoenix. Whether it was visiting the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) or wandering around Old Scottsdale, there was plenty of opportunities to enjoy yourself outside of performing. As someone who loves the exploration in traveling, it was those journeys that were truly exciting. Even just a little hike to a scenic view or walking around in the cool night after a concert was invigorating. And of course, these miniature journeys allowed the Wind Orchestra to grow together and encourage each other to journey on.
No matter how much exploration took up our time in Arizona, we still centered our tour around our performances. We gave multiple concerts to various churches and were even able to perform for and mentor students at a local high school. The music we performed centered around journeys, as our repertoire began with scenes from the Old Testament, going on into a series of choral preludes, and ending with scenes from the New Testament. We explored both the joy and pain that permeate through these pieces. One piece that we explicitly featured was “Via Crucis” by Martin Ellerby, which showcased Jesus’s journey of crucifixion and resurrection. That journey and the trials that came with it manifested themselves through various extended techniques and unusual instrumentation. It was that piece that gave me the opportunity to go on both this musical and physical journey, since in the piece there is a cello—an uncommon instrument for a wind orchestra—that serves as a narrator, commenting on Christ’s trials through music. That musical journey grew as I played on various string bass and bassoon parts, but it was “Via Crucis” that sparked the opportunity to perform with the Wind Orchestra.
That opportunity and the journeys that came with it are not quite finished. On Sunday, March 27 at 2 p.m. in the A. F. Siebert Chapel, we will share the fruits of our labor through a concert that showcases the music we performed on tour. It is a fitting end to this journey as we return home and celebrate through music.
Tickets are free and must be obtained in advance. To obtain your reserved tickets, please visit www.carthage.edu/tickets 24/7 or call the Fine Arts Box Office 262-551-6661 from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Join us also from home through our live stream: live.carthage.edu.