March 6th, 2017 – Did Someone Say ORCHESTRA?!

The Orpheum Theatre, seated stage right – students, teachers, volunteers, staff, and parents; there were sixty of us there that night. The lights dim, the crowd hushes, and the student sitting next to me grows very self-conscious about the crinkling noises he makes as he tries to open the wrapper to his Kit Kat Bar. The concert masters walks on stage. The orchestra tunes. The conductor enters. The students fidget in their seats, brimming with anticipation. And then it all begins, and it begins in earnest. A fanfare of brass followed by the hectic racing of the strings. Ta-ta-ta-ta – ta-ta-ta-ta, the snare joins in, transporting us back to the damp battlegrounds of the 1917 Russian October Revolution. Everyone is sitting up straight, listening intently. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture is not a composition that leaves one unsatisfied.

Then it was time for some piano wizardry courtesy of 2014 Musical Instrumentalist of the Year Jeremy Denk, hunched over and welding fingers that seem to move uncontrollably fast yet with such confident precisiou, doing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 19 the justice that it deserves. The students watch in amazement, their heads bobbing to the rhythm tapped out by Denk’s right foot. And when he finished, they stood up and clapped and hollered until he generously came back on stage for an encore performance.

The night was capped off by the return of Shostakovich and his spirited storytelling in Symphony No. 12 “The Year 1917,” a commemoration of Vladimir Lenin and the Russian Revolution. For forty five minutes, we were treated to a roller coaster of crescendos and decrescendos. At times, the only sound in the hall was the plucking of cello and violin strings. And at others, the entire orchestra was engaged in violent conversation. You could feel the energy build up and up as the piece approached its climax. The horns sounded ever more loudly, the booming percussion rattling the theatre seats. And with a resounding final note, the Orpheum erupted into applause.

The Saint James Music Academy would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to our devoted community partner, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. It was not merely a night of musical delight that you gave to our students but a collection of fond memories and experiences that will endure with them far beyond the sounding of that final note. When the night came to an end, there was something different in the way our students carried themselves. It was late but they were not tired. They were excited, inspired, longing for more. Being in the audience that night was an opening up of possibilities; of all the possibilities found in and through music, hard work, and collaboration. Thank you again to the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and we hope for many more concerts to come!

Written by David Liou, March 27th, 2017