The Hillsdale College Orchestra is bringing back the winners of last January’s Aria Competition for their annual Parents Weekend Orchestra concert.
Senior Britta De Groot, a pianist, and 2020 alumnae sopranos Christa Green and Domine Clemons will perform solos alongside the orchestra on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m. and again Sunday, Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. in the Christ Chapel.
“To be in an orchestra with other musicians was such an energizing thing,” said James Holleman, chair of the music department, expressing the musicians’ joy at returning after a shortened spring concert cycle.
Highlights of the performance include Six Dances from “The Danserye” by Tylman Susato and “Fantasia on a Theme” by Thomas Tallis. De Groot will be performing Sergei Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto.
“I am beyond excited and honored to be performing this fabulous concerto,” De Groot said in an email. “Playing with the orchestra adds a whole new dimension to the piece. The orchestra brings a depth and power to the composition that is really exciting and vibrant.”
The orchestra is still taking precautions against the coronavirus pandemic.
“Because of the COVID virus, we’re rehearsing strings alone, woodwinds alone, and brass alone,” Holleman said.
The risk associated with wind instruments and flutes are especially challenging, as they blow into their instruments and produce aerosol and moisture, Holleman said. As a result, they will be separated by a Plexiglass barrier from the rest of the orchestra.
“I’m excited and also concerned to have winds and brass blowing into the instruments for the first time, with everybody,” Holleman said. “They’re doing it on their own, they’re trusting each other to be reasonable about their protocol 24/7.”
The stringed instruments will be wearing masks as well, Holleman said, which has had its own problems.
“It’s really hard to play violin with a mask on, we had to get these weird violin masks which scrunch up really close so we could play,” said senior and first violinist Eleanor Fishlock.
Musicians are also seated alone rather than in pairs for maximum social distancing.
“That has been a little hard with the page turns because the system is all messed up,” Fishlock said, “and hearing people is very hard.”
When a student is quarantined, Holleman said, things get very tricky for the whole orchestra.
“It’s difficult when students are quarantined for 14 days and miss that many rehearsals,” Holleman said. “But the college is doing well. They’re red-flagging students well, they’re isolating, they’re taking this seriously. We need to make this work because the goal is to have class, to have rehearsals, to have performances, to have college, as Dr. Arnn says. And so we’re doing our part to have college in the music department.”