PHOTO: Clarinetists Madison Trumbla, Michaela Genik, and Cora Alexiuk of the AHS band instrument class warm up in preparation for sharing the concert stage with the Thunder Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra at Grayson Hall on March 10.
Symphony’s youth orchestra impresses with classical and novel pieces
The Thunder Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra (TBSYO) visited Atikokan High School Friday afternoon before March Break, to play a concert with the AHS band instrument and guitar classes.
The TBSYO is made up of musicians from ages 12 to 25, and about two dozen of them, under the direction of Thomas Cosbey, made the trip to Atikokan. They are a talented group, and produced a full, rich, symphonic sound during their performances.
Cosbey, a violinist, has been the concertmaster of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchstra since 2007. He is also a well-respected soloist. Hi most recent performance was on Brahm’s Double Concerto with the TBSO; he has also been featured with the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, and Sinfonia Toronto.
Concertmaster of the youth orchestra is violinist Nicole Waboose, a high school student who has been playing for thirteen years.
The TBSYO tries to make at least one school-focuses trip each year, Cosbey said. Last year, it visited Terrace Bay; in 2015, it was Winnipeg.
In honour of this year’s travel, Michelle Zapf-Bélanger, a violinist with the Thunder Bay Symphony (and Cosbey’s wife), wrote a piece of music called Visitors, for the orchestra to play with the AHS players. It’s an aleatoric work, meaning some element of the work is left to chance.
Actually, it was a lot more than some element that was left to chance.
Cosbey showed the composition: it didn’t include any notes. Instead, all the notes were put in a hat and then about half an hour before the concert, three players each drew one note out of a hat, and they (E sharp, D, and F) became the centrepiece of the composition.
All of the players (from both AHS and the TBSYO) were divided into half a dozen groups of five to seven, and spread around in different sections of Grayson Hall to work on their part of the composition. Each group played the three notes in a certain fashion, and then followed some special instructions in the score.
These instructions were worked out in a variety of ways, all based on chance: dice rolls, players’ birth dates, instructions to play it ‘like this picture’, etc. These and similarly random methods were used to create a set of playing instructions specific to the players of each group.
Cosbey, and his AHS counterpart Eric Arner, scooted around among the different groups as they worked away at the piece. Cosbey’s final instruction to all the musicians was to “Go a little nuts! Play something rather than nothing.”
When it came time to play the piece later, the groups took up their home positions around the hall, and Cosbey threw a little curve at the audience: We, too, were to participate. At the designated time, we were to start humming the three notes.
The resulting performance was surprising musical, and very interesting to be a part of.
About fifteen AHS students from the two small music classes turned out for the performance, including nine horn players, a keyboardist, and several percussionists and guitarists. The music classes this year are both second semester courses, so the players have only been meeting for a little over the month. They did nice work on two pieces, then later joined the TBSYO for Visitors, and the orchestra’s closing number, the Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
On its own, the orchestra opened with a German dance by Mozart, Sleigh Ride. Then it accompanied violinist Gabriella Galle, the young winner of the TBSYO’s junior concerto competition, for Oskar Rieding’s Concerto in B Minor. Next up was a piece from Offenbach’s Orpheus and the Underworld (the tune best known as the Can-Can), and then came Strauss’ Radetzky March.