Philharmonic Orchestra


A trumpet resonates. The sound of a violin cuts into the quiet air, serenading the audience. Woodwinds soon join the chorus, followed by the rattling rumble of percussion, the notes gradually growing louder. Soon, the entirety of Meyer Hall is filled with the chorus of an orchestra–the union of instruments harmonizing to create a tune that reverberates off the walls, echoes off the high ceiling, and draws the eyes of those who occupy the theater.

Held on Sept. 27 in Meyer Hall, the Philharmonic Orchestra marked the first concert of the year held by the music department. The concert was conducted by strings dean Wendell Simmons, and attendees included such notable figures as school founder Alexander Dreyfoos and principal Susan Atherley.

  “It was incredible how in-sync [the orchestra] was,” band freshman Juan Azanza said. “Their bodies moved in unison, their notes were so well-timed, and the sounds of the distinct instruments blended together to create such a beautiful, memorable performance.”

The Philharmonic Orchestra required immense preparation on behalf of the students, who practiced both in and out of class to perfect their pieces. The practice was made especially strenuous due to the Orchestra being scheduled early into the school year, as students had limited time to memorize their individual parts and learn to harmonize as a group.

“[Mr. Simmons] tasked us with preparing for the Philharmonic Orchestra over the summer,” strings senior Dana Esposito said. “But by the time school started, we still had to practice the pieces as a group–so since the concert was relatively early into the new school year, we had to dedicate a large portion of our time to rehearsal, even in ensemble and technique classes.”

 The concert featured many classical ensembles, notably the “Firebird Suite” by Igor Stravinsky, a single piece split into multiple sections. “The Firebird Suite” tells the downfall of a powerful, ogre-like figure of evil, Kastchei the Deathless, through the intervention of a rare, beautiful bird. Therefore, the Orchestra faced a challenging task in incorporating the many diverse tones and rhythms of each section–some with distinctly melancholy tones, others with bright, uplifting rhythms, and others with varying degrees of suspense and dramaticity.

“It was really exciting, especially preparing for this piece that’s really famous in the music community,” strings senior Emme Colton said. “[Firebird Suite] is one of the hardest pieces Philharmonic has ever done, and being able to perform it at the level we did is truly extraordinary and required immense dedication and practice on behalf of the music department.”

The orchestra also paid homage to Beethoven, incorporating “Symphony No.3 in Eroica.” Like “The Firebird Suite,” Beethoven’s symphony was a single tune split into several sections, such as “Allegro con Brio,” “Marcia Funebre,” and “Scherzo,” a structurally rigid composition accompanied by rapid gestures from Mr.Simmons. Furthermore, the piece is widely recognized as not only a turning point in Beethoven’s life, but the history of music as a whole. Therefore, the Orchestra worked meticulously to translate the transformative tones of the piece into their performance.

“[Firebird and Symphony No.3]  were painful performing, both mentally and physically,” strings sophomore Hannah Shanker said. “My arms and back hurt a lot; I had to exert a lot of physical energy to uphold my instrument because the ensembles were so long. But in the end, all my effort was worth it because the satisfaction and gratification I felt up on stage was unprecedented.”