HS Spring Concert Reflection

On April 13th, the Spring Concert was held in the auditorium. We played four pieces and our theme was Modern Landscape. For our concert this year, we were lucky enough to have DJ Monsta, a DJ/ music producer play along with us and mix in electronic sounds to our pieces using the launchpad and the turntable.

The first piece of the program, and concert was Spring in which I was lucky enough to play solo for and conduct. This piece by far was the most technically challenging piece; it was a very note-heavy piece with a fast tempo, requiring very good intonation and focus. Most of the time, the tempo for the different sections of the orchestra was the same and thus it was crucial that we were in complete sync during those times and deliver the notes accurately. Since the piece was technically challenging, requiring focus on delivering the right notes with good intonation relatively quickly, it was quite challenging for some players to keep the tempo. During practice, we had experienced major decreases in tempo during transitions of tempo which was pretty fatal because the lower strings that were keeping the baseline and in charge of keeping the tempo through the baseline slowed down, slowing down the other groups and it was hard to regain the tempo because not everyone was looking at me. Therefore, I decided to show the tempo clearly by nodding my head like a metronome because there were no hands to conduct the orchestra and at first, I was a little dubious of whether it was clear enough and helped the orchestra, but I was reassured when some members of the orchestra commented that it helped a lot. However looking back at the performance through the video, I am very surprised everyone was able to keep up because the tempo is extremely fast. We as a group did much better in keeping the tempo than the practices but i think that the experience we had of the decreases in tempo throughout the piece during the practices made me think that I should take a slightly faster tempo, and this was catalyzed by the adrenaline rush we all experience during concerts. Ms. Banehene told me during the last practice about this and she was right. However even at this tempo, the cellos were lagging and thus I think that it was good that I took a  slightly faster tempo so even if the cellos were slowing down, the violins could keep up with me and set the tempo throughout the piece although this is slightly risky. In the original of the song, there are more fluctuations of the tempo within the piece, with gaps of space to create flow, but I think that we as a group were not competent enough to deliver these fluctuations with confidence and with effect because there were other aspects of the performance that we had to focus on.

Oblivion was one of my favourite pieces, because this piece incorporates elements of jazz and classical music in a style called nuevo tango, and had a very different feeling of tempo. A lot of the times, when there is a piece with a solo part, I am the one playing the solo in which I can express myself in any way, with freedom, fluctuating the tempo, and dynamics as I like as the rest of the orchestra would be accompanying me, following my lead and supporting my solo. However, this time I was part of the accompaniment supporting the flute solo. The orchestra tends to deliver very decisive beats, quite literally following the music. As someone who has experienced playing solos many times, I knew that this would make the soloist slightly uncomfortable because it would restrict her ability to fluctuate the tempo in the way she chooses to, which is a big part of this piece with a nuevo tango style. Therefore, I focused on listening to her and looking at Ms. Banahene, making sure that the orchestra was flexible and able to adjust to the changes of tempo and dynamics not written on the music and allow the soloist to express herself in any way through our support.

 

HS Winter Concert Reflection (Dec. 1)

On December 1st, the HS Winter Concert was held in the auditorium. We played four pieces, and our theme was Winter in Japan. Our first piece was It’s a Wonderful Life. This piece being very relaxed, I used long bowing, making sure that I use all of my bow, especially for my solo because I wanted to make sure that the audience can hear the beautiful intro. I was pleased to hear that my solo was quite audible, and my intonation was good. It was essential that my intonation was perfect, especially considering this piece was the first piece and thus I was determined to make sure that I did not miss the intonation, which can sometimes happen at concert despite practice. Most often, the starting note is not the best, especially if it’s the first piece of the repertoire, but my starting note was strong and the vibrato helped. I put thought into my solo, thinking of how I can make it expressive. I wanted to create a flow in the first two measures and so I used long bowing, and then slightly released pressure, creating a slight contrast and flow, including a bit of impromptu dynamics, despite the music sheet not having any change in dynamics. Additionally, Ms. Banahene and I discussed about the rallentando in class and we decided that the orchestra would follow my lead so I can be flexible and slow down as much as I want.. Through several practices during class, I was able to get the feel and get the rallentando down. Listening to the recording, I could have emphasized the rallentando slightly more at the concert, but I am quite satisfied at how it turned out. It is not too slow, so as not to break the flow of the piece but includes a bit of slowing down so as to create a flow and create a kind of space for anticipation before the whole orchestra joins in.

This piece was one of the pieces that required a lot of attention for intonation. As can be heard in the recording, the C# was definitely something we struggled in perfecting. We repeatedly practiced this note in class, both playing as group and also having individuals do the finger placement test. It was crucial to perfect the tone of this note, because it is the leading tone. Despite repeated practice during class, I knew that we would sound flat because some people in the ensemble were playing very flat, and a lot of people in the group were playing slightly flat and the flat sound accumulates. Therefore, I tried to play a bit sharp, to get everyone to play a bit sharper but listening to the recording, the note turned out to be flat as expected. I think that during class, I should have emphasized the importance of getting this note on point, or tell my classmates to play a bit sharper, which is better because it leads to the tonic of D. However, it is a fact that we improved quite a lot compared to the beginning, where I couldn’t help but cringe every time we played the note. I think that in the six measures following measure 5, we were constantly playing at mf and we forgot to make a distinction between mp and mf, and we could also have done better with the crescendos and decrescendos which were intentionally written in the music by the composer.

Regarding my second solo, I was slightly worried about the intonation, because the range is relatively high and I have to carefully think about finger placement unlike when I play in the middle range, where my fingers can find the right note without thinking due to experience and repetition. I had to really stretch my fingers for the high F and harmonic and a slight slide could be heard, but I think that my repeated practice of finger placement payed off and my intonation turned out better than expected. I know I should be having a more determined attitude and ensure that my perfect intonation is guaranteed, especially because I am playing the solo, but I was pleased overall.

…. I want to talk about other pieces, but my reflection on the first piece has already far exceeded the word count. However putting this aside, I believe the concert was a success because we really focused on expression, accuracy of rhythm and intonation, and I received a lot of congratulatory words, including “I could see hear the effort you put in including expression, rather than just reading the notes and your body language showed a lot too.”

Me smiling because concerts are always exciting!

First Violin Section

Whole ensemble

Polar Express, my favourite piece of the night

Photo credits:

Facebook. (n.d.). Retrieved January 05, 2017, from https://www.facebook.com/canacad.kobe/

HS Spring Concert

Last Wednesday, the Spring Concert was held in the auditorium. The theme was “Blossoming Strings” for HS orchestra, and included classic pieces as well as jazz pieces. I believe the concert went well and we were able to play well as a group. I especially liked this concert as playing as a symphony orchestra was always something I wanted from when I was in 6th grade.

The repertoire started off with Brandenburg Concerto, a classical piece which I think the ensemble performed best, because we had especially worked on keeping a stable rhythm as a group and keeping together. As always, we tend to rush because we do not listen enough to other sections because we are so preoccupied with the music in front us. However, I believe that we were able to improve a lot throughout our practice.

Personally, I think I performed best in Bacchanale. As I was given the music about a week before the performance, I did not have much time to rehearse with the group so I had to depend on the recording and practice by myself. I was slightly apprehensive about this piece not only because I didn’t have much practice but also because the castanet was such a crucial part, setting the rhythm for the entire piece and I knew that I had to pay attention at all times and ensure that my counting was accurate, so as not to mess up and confuse the others. In the video, it seems as if I am unsure and playing randomly, but I payed attention at all times, counting accurately and listening to certain parts where some instruments enter, which I had previously noted down during rehearsal and I believe I was able to play confidently and without mistakes. I was also relieved to hear from my brother, who is dead honest, that my part stood out a lot and that it matched with the other sections.

Concerto for Timpani was most technically challenging because our part often included notes that were in a rather high range, which we as whole did not have much practice in, and good intonation was essential. We also had to ensure that we were listening to other parts because the melody would often alternate within the different sections.

A String of Pearls, although was not one of the pieces that I had performed best, was my favourite because I am focusing on jazz improv for this unit and I was able to listen to fellow students doing improv for a few measures, as opposed to professional jazz artists. Before the concert, I had listened to the original song, played by Glenn Miller Orchestra and there was a lot of swing to the song, which us amateurs can never exactly imitate as we are perhaps afraid of being flexible regarding rhythm because we often play pieces that have a set rhythm, but it is for sure one of the characteristics of the song which I love so much. I also loved how the trumpeter’s improv was so simple, without complicated rhythms and simply using the scale yet so put together.

Spring Concert Reflection

On April 29th, the CA Spring Instrumental Concert was held in the auditorium. The theme of the concert was “Stories of Spring”. The 6th graders were first in the program and my solo for Baby Elephant Walk started off the middle school repertoire. The ⅞ Orchestra repertoire consisted of movie music, which I had suggested in my music journal, and I loved the music choices. Personally, I think I performed best in Baby Elephant Walk as despite my worry, I was able to play the melody with good intonation and confidence. I was a bit nervous as it was crucial for me to play well and confidently, as it was the start of the beginning piece of our repertoire. However, I was glad that I was able to play well and I think it was a very creative and enjoyable introduction for the audience and many members of the audience commented on it and came up to me with compliments. Regarding the other parts of the piece, it was a bit disappointing as I noticed that the cellos had played more louder and stronger during class and their part was quite important as they were the baseline. Therefore, we lacked a bit of enthusiasm/ goofiness and rhythm but overall, I think we did well on this piece.

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As I also noticed during class, Star Wars was definitely the piece that our ensemble performed best as the class loved the piece and were very enthusiastic about it. It sounded very powerful and it was crucial for me to play loud and decisively along with the cellos as we were the supporting baseline. I think we followed Ms. Banahene’s conducting quite well.

I think I was well prepared for this concert as I had practiced and learned my parts well so that I will be able to play confidently and accurately even though I get nervous during the concert.

I think Star Wars was emotionally satisfying as in this piece, we were united and it was clear that we were enjoying the piece. I loved that it sounded strong and powerful, matching the background video created by Yu.

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I think Chronicles of Narnia was most demanding both technically and emotionally as there were a lot of tempo changes and it was very hard trying to encourage the players to play their best and with enthusiasm like they did in Star Wars. It was also hard to make sure that they were looking at me during tempo changes so we definitely need to continue working on this so that it will be a habit for them.

From the repertoire we played, my favorite piece was “Baby Elephant Walk” from the first time I heard it and I was very honored and excited when I got to play the solo. It was the first time I had played from the audience and it was great and I hope I can do something like it once again!

Winter Instrumental Concert

On Friday, the Winter Concert was held in the auditorium.  The theme for ⅞ orchestra was “A Royal Winter” and our repertoire was mainly composed of pieces that were played for the royalty. It was the first big concert of the year for orchestra and band, and a lot of work was put into it so I was extremely excited for the performance. The first piece was “Le Divin Enfant”, meaning “The Divine Child” in French. The piece started off with dark, mysterious sounds representing the darkness and chaos before the birth of Jesus Christ. This is followed by a gentle, lovely melody that is a variation of the traditional french carol “He is Born, the Divine Child”. I think this was the most emotionally satisfying piece as the bells were the definite highlight of the piece and I loved the light, high-pitched sounds that sounded a bit christmassy and was a great addition to the piece. The next pieces was the first movement of the “Toy Symphony”. This piece portrayed a Christmas morning, where children were opening up their presents and playing with their toys. This was a very fun piece as unlike other pieces, several boys played toy instruments and Tomo played the trumpet as a special guest. Every time Yodai played the ratchet, I was impressed by his confidence and always could not resist laughing. I personally think this piece was played best as an ensemble as it was a very fun piece and everyone payed attention, making everyone united and very enthusiastic. It is a great pity and disappointment that the CA TV crew forgot to film the Toy Symphony, Minuet and Winter as I was looking forward to watch us play the pieces. Although I do not get a chance to reflect on my playing during Winter as the CA TV crew did not take a video of it, I think it was a success and we played beautifully. I had been working on vibrato for about 2 weeks and although I have not completely mastered vibrato yet, I think I did fairly well during winter and my patience and practice paid off. When I looked at the video for Terra Nova, I realized that when conducting, my arms looked rigid so I think I could have put a bit more flow into my arm movement and it would be great if more members of the orchestra looked at me for cues. However, it was a great wrap up to to the G ⅞ orchestra repertoire and it was a success. 12359836_1145420075469856_553966451807541781_n12301738_1145420338803163_5467383839266535942_n12357122_1145420395469824_2553566689689905998_o

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Music End of Year Reflection

As a member of the MS orchestra this year, I think I grew as a musician, actively participating and sharing ideas in class and becoming more observant and helping others by giving them advice on bowing or fingering etc.. In orchestra this year, not only did we play music, we also gained knowledge on history and other aspects of music through presenting about the Conquistadores (Hernán Cortés, Francisco Pizarro etc.) and we are also currently working on a presentation about carribean music. Ms. Constantini also gives us life lessons such as the importance of greeting others during music class and I think this has also bettered me as a person. I have also participated in the G6 & high school orchestra and band and middle school choir repertoir. Through participating as a percussionist in MS/HS/G6 Band & Orchestra, I have discovered the joy of playing a wider variety of instruments such as the bells, vibes, tambarines and of course the chimes! One of the pieces I played the bells for was “In Flight” during the HS Instrumental Spring Concert. It was one of my favourite piece as it was so powerful and had such a strong impact on me. The melody of the bells really stood out and I realized the beauty of the sound of the bells. While playing, I felt such a strong sense of pride in being able to play with the HS Band and I just loved the music! I was also surprised and admired Stephanie’s skills when she was playing the xylophone beside me. She played the countless notes on her music sheet very accurately and I was awed. Although my head hurt a bit and I was exhausted after the excitement during the concert, I had a feeling of satisfaction and it was such a wonderful experience!

Another time when I had unforgettable memories I had was when I played the chimes for “Moscow, 1941”; the last piece of the MS band repertoire for the spring concert this year. It was my very first time playing the chimes and I was awed by the impact the sound of the chimes had. It added a very different mood to the music and made it much more powerful. The piece demanded quite a lot of attention as I had to play accurately and swiftly. To play the instrument, it required strength and I was embarrassed by Mr. Vest a couple times during rehearsal as I was still not accustomed to the instrument and was afraid of hitting the pipes of the chimes as hard as I could. However, Mr. Vest told me to hit it as hard as possible and maybe break a few bones and passionately encouraged me to play as hard as I dared and on the day of the concert, I was very confident and was able to play well.

As a violinist, percussionist and pianist this year, I have grown and become more confident and I feel like this year has been full of exhilerating experiences and I guarantee that my excitement and enthusiasm when I recieve new pieces to play has definitely grown since last year.

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Orchestra Music Journal Post

Oct. 20th 2014

For the last few lessons, we have been practicing “The Emerald Falcon” by Richard Meyer. Although it was a little challenging at first, I am getting used to the piece after practicing a lot of times and I really enjoy it. I love the piece as it is powerful and very rhythmic. It sounds as if something grand and big is coming towards you. However after the rhythmic part, there is a part where it is absolutely beautiful as the melody of the solo violin can be heard very clearly. I also love the sound of the double bass which makes the piece deep and profound.  We are also playing “Hunter’s Chorus” by Carl Maria von Weber. It is very straightforward and I have heard the melody a couple times in the past and therefore it is pretty easy to pick up the melody.

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HS Spring Instrumental Concert

On April 18th (Fri.), the HS Spring Instrumental Concert was held and the HS Orchestra, Symphonic Winds/ Jazz Ensemble and the concert band performed several pieces.  I was able to play “Bacchanale” with the HS orchestra and it was a great privilige for me to be able to perform in the concert. Although it took a lot of effort and time, it really payed off and the performance was a great success! I really loved the piece as it was very energetic and powerful. As part of the ‘special guests’, Mr. Cook (french horn), a few MS students and Mr. Shirai (violin) played as well. When I first saw Mr. Shirai during rehearsal, I was wondering why he felt awfully similar. I was thinking to myself until I realized who he was. He was the cashier! I was so surprised that I almost fell off my chair! His wife, Mrs. Shirai played the harpsichord during the Allegro of Brandenburg Concerto No.3 (abridged) by Johann S. Bach. I also loved the piece “Nimrod” by Edward Elgar arranged  by M. Bender. It was a beautiful piece and the melody was very soothing.

HS Orchestra & 'Special Guests' playing Bacchanale

HS Orchestra & ‘Special Guests’ playing Bacchanale

Ms. Shirai playing the harpsichord

Ms. Shirai playing the harpsichord

My favourite piece which was played by the Jazz Ensemble was “Beyond The Sea” as I had heard it a lot of times and it was really jazzy! I also loved “Walkin’ the Dawg“. It was a really cool piece and I felt like dancing around!! Mr. O’Kane played the Electric Bass and he made the piece much more jazzier and it was very enjoyable!

Walkin' The Dawg

Walkin’ The Dawg

Finally to wrap up the concert, the HS orchestra played “Andromeda” which was absolutely wonderful. Andromeda is a name of a constellation and the piece reminded me of the wide universe.

Andromeda

Andromeda

Owing to Ms. Constantini and Mr. Vest and of course the musicians, it was a great success and congratulations to the seniors! I really think being able to play with HS orchestra was a great opportunity and again, I would like to thank Ms. Constantini. Thank you so much!!!

The Middle & High School Spring Vocal Concert

On April 4th, the middle and high school students from choir sang a lot of songs including slow, beautiful songs and rhythmic and fun songs. As an example of the exercise pieces we normally sing, the 6th grade choir sang “Waterspout” by Trad. Canon. “Waterspout” is a round song and we sang in different parts. And to make things super duper interesting, we sang in six parts! Although some melody lines were buried by the other strong melody lines, we tried to keep our melody line and it was a great success! 

Click here to see the video of the 6th Grade Choir singing “Waterspout”!

Myself singing!!

Myself singing!!

The next piece we sang was “Zum Gali Gali”, an Israeli Folk Song arranged by D. Shwartz. Ms. Matsuzawa accompanied us and I think the melody of the treble part really matched up with the alto and octave parts and created a great harmony.

Click here to see the video of the 6th Grade Choir singing “Zum Gali Gali”!

The third piece was “When I Close My Eyes” by Jim Papoulis, accompanied by Ms. Matsuzawa. “When I Close My Eyes” is a beautiful, soft song and I really love the lyrics. “When I close my eyes, then I can see. When I close my eyes, I’m alive….” There is also a rhythmic part in the middle which is very enjoyable to sing. “Now I am learning the magic within me and that is the reason I’m standing so tall…”

Click here to see the video of the 6th Grade Choir singing “When I Close My Eyes”!

The 6th Grade Choir Singing!

The 6th Grade Choir Singing!

The final piece that wrapped up the 6th Grade Choir performance was “My Favourite Things” by O. Hammerstein & R. Rodgers, arranged by C. Warnick. Ms. Fortier accompanied us and I really enjoyed singing the piece as it is one of my all-time favourite songs! It has a light, fun melody and it makes me smile to sing about my favourite things! “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens….. Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes… These are a few of my favourite things… ”

 

Click here to see the video of the 6th Grade Choir singing “My Favourite Things”!

During the Middle School Choir Performance, I was able to accompany the choir during the piece “Fields of Gold” by G.M. Sumner, arranged by R. Emerson. It is an absolutely wonderful piece and I really loved how the solo part and alto part combined and created a splendid melody.

However what I want to say clearly is that the page-turner has a huge responsiblity as well as the player and that as the player’s hands are full, the page-turner has to concentrate even more and make sure that they are following precisely. Recognising that being a page-turner has a lot of responsiblity and that you are in a very important position in which if you make a mistake, the player will be greatly affected is extremely important. Being a page-turner and following precisely is as important as being a guide dog for the blind. If the dog mistakes and leads the blind person to a very busy road with a lot of cars, the blind person will die.

During the first part of the performance, my page-turner turned the page at about half of the 3-page sheet remaining and it was the same as having the whole piece being dropped onto the ground and I really suffered. During the “few minutes of absolute horror”, I panicked greatly. However, Mr. McHugh, the choir and I arranged it inside our heads without stopping and veered it on to the right course again. Although the page-turner was able to turn the page precisely during the practices, that did not happen at the real perfomance and it greatly affected Mr. McHugh, the choir and I. That might result in losing trust. Therefore, when being a page-turner it is essential to concentrate and recognise that you have a tremendously big responsibility.

However owing to Mr. McHugh and the choir, we were able to continue successfully and after the performance, we were given a loud applause and I felt very relieved and I think it was a very interesting experience!! It was a great privilige for me to be able to accompany the choir and I was overjoyed to be able to be part of the choir! Thank you so much Mr. McHugh!!!

Click here to see the video of the Middle School Choir singing “The Fields of Gold” with my accompaniment!

Middle School Choir Singing "The Fields of Gold"

Middle School Choir Singing “The Fields of Gold”

A piece the Middle School Choir sang which I absolutely loved was “Here Comes the Sun” by George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the internationally famous band, “The Beatles”!! The piece was arranged by A. Billingsley and accompanied by Ms. Fortier. It had a fun, nice melody and I really liked the bright lyrics. “Here comes the sun (doo doo doo doo), Here comes the sun and I say it’s all right…”
Here Comes the Sun!!

MJsValentine via Fanpop          Here Comes the Sun!!

Owing to Mr. McHugh, the choir members and the accompanists, it was a great success and again, thank you so much!!!!!