Friday, April 20, 2001
A Boston Symphony Hall Debut
Carlisle School 8th-grader
On the bus to Bostons Symphony Hall last Saturday, April 14, I was very excited. I was not in the mood for card playing or New York Yankees bashing, the two preferred bus-ride activities. The Carlisle Middle School Senior Band, made up of 77 musicians in grades five through eight, was on its way to its debut performance in Symphony Hall with the Massachusetts Instrumental and Choral Conductors Associations third annual Stars at Symphony showcase. When we arrived at Symphony Hall, we were greeted by Carlisle resident Megan Roberts of the MICCHSA Staff, (CCHS students who had volunteered to help for the day). Megan directed us into a side stairwell and up into an area comparable to a hotel conference center. In a conference room we left our instrument cases and warmed up a bit before following Megan down into a basement tuning room.
Down into the basement
The basement contrasts sharply with the hall there is a noticeable lack of red carpet and gold leaf. The low ceiling is lined with pipes and air ducts and our footsteps echoed off the concrete walls and floor. In the tuning room, where a thermometer on the wall proclaimed that the temperature was nearing eighty degrees Fahrenheit, band director Thomas OHalloran tuned us individually and we warmed-up. Jon Owen (MICCHSA Staff), also from Carlisle, who seemed to be stage manager for the day, checked with Mr. OHalloran on seating arrangements and then after a short word of encouragement, we were on our way to the stage. The band stopped on a staircase, but from my position towards the end of the line I could not see what was at the top. At this point I was still excited and expectant, but this feeling was not to last.
As soon as I glimpsed the top of the stairs where a door opened onto the stage of Symphony Hall, my stomach clenched and nervousness set in, as I knew it would. With smiles and more encouragement from Alfred Dentino (CCHS music director) and Jeffrey Leonard (Lexington High School music director), the days Master of Ceremonies, I proceeded onto the stage and to the first clarinet section. Here I had to consciously count the seats Molly, Melissa, Matt, Christine, me to find my seat. Now seated and secure, I could use my relaxing breathing techniques to calm myself down enough to take in the scene.
From the stage, the hall looks much smaller than it does from the back of the second balcony. In the spirited audience were thirteen members of my extended family; even my great-grandfather attended this special event. Then we started playing. We played The First American Folk Rhapsody by Clare Grundman, Shenandoah arranged by Frank Ticheli, and The March of the Belgian Parachutists by Pieter Leemans, arranged by John Bourgeois. It must be noted that the audience in Symphony Hall properly held their applause at the end of Shenandoah until Mr. OHalloran lowered his hands.
Symphony Hall is considered to have the best acoustics of any performance hall in the world. From the stage at Symphony Hall the band sounded very different than it does at Corey Auditorium. In Corey Auditorium the band is one mass of sound, but in Symphony Hall I could hear each individual instrument separately. Also in Symphony Hall there are wonderful reverberations that cannot be achieved in Corey Auditorium. Our performance received a standing ovation and great praise from all present including Mr. OHalloran, a rare treat!
Afterwards, I stayed to listen to the rest of the bands. All were wonderful. That evening, with my grandparents, I heard the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform Walton, Sibelius, and Brahms. The BSO was on the same stage I had performed on mere hours before. Wow, what a day!