WYSO Youth Orchestra Virtual Concert

The William Tell Overture : Finale by Gioachino Rossini 

 

March 11 seems so long ago and yet, it seems like only days.
The WYSO Youth Orchestra had just completed two amazing dress rehearsals in preparation for a sold out March 13 concert at the Hamel Music Center. On the program just before intermission was the William Tell Overture by Rossini. The Youth Orchestra had been rehearsing for weeks: the horns, the violins, the tympani–all were ready for the March 13 concert!

 

Suddenly, on March 11, just before noon, UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank held a press conference about the world pandemic and WYSO realized that the concert at the beautiful Hamel Music Center would be suspended. In those days,”world pandemic” and “COVID-19” did not roll as easily off our tongues. We thought perhaps the concert would be rescheduled within a week or two, perhaps even at the end of April or May.

By the end of March, it was clear that the concert would be delayed longer. WYSO pivoted to Zoom classes to replace the full orchestra rehearsals. WYSO students saw each other but could not physically play together. The uneven speed of internet reception made rehearsing together via Zoom an exercise in cacophony. Students practiced instrumental techniques together and began exploring the creation of Virtual Concerts.

To record music for a Virtual Concert requires two devices: a cell phone or iPad playing a recorded “click-track” in one ear of the musician and a second cell phone or iPad video-recording the musician playing. Each “click track” is a piece of recorded music that begins with a series of precisely timed clicks so that an audio-editor can line up the clicks to account for differing internet speeds while layering the student-recorded tracks on top of each other. For WYSO students, this was very different from orchestra playing where every ounce of a student’s personal radar is focused on the conductor and their fellow instrumentalists making music around them.

WYSO Youth Orchestra Conductor Kyle Knox asked the orchestra members to pick up the William Tell Overture by Rossini that had been rehearsed extensively for the March 13 concert. The plan was to to concentrate on the last movement—an exciting and dramatic 3 minutes of playing for all of the instruments. Students rehearsed and recorded in their living rooms, sometimes needing multiple takes to get their cell phones in place for a good photo composition, their instruments ready, and their timing perfect.

Once the student recordings were complete, Maestro Knox worked with the sound engineers at Audio for the Arts to layer the individual recordings, paying close attention to the volume balance of the instruments and the emotional quality of the music.

We are so pleased to share this Virtual Concert with you today and to celebrate together this extraordinary journey. We are filled with awe at what the WYSO student musicians have learned and accomplished during this most unusual of spring seasons. Celebrate with us this virtual performance of the William Tell Overture: Finale.

We congratulate our conductor, our wonderful student musicians, their parents, and coaches— and our friends at Audio for the Arts, who put in many extra hours of work! We are so grateful to our fabulous WYSO supporters, who have been there through thick and thin, through the excitement of final rehearsals and the heartbreak of concert cancellations, through Zoom music lessons and the arc of virtual performance.

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