Audrey Chen, a cellist from Redmond, Washington, writes about the thrilling experience of playing an NYO-USA concert.
There is something remarkable about the mixture of pride, intensity, and excitement that surges up in the entire orchestra as we stand to face the eager roar of audience members. Before the music even begins, all of us, dressed in our crisp black, white, and red outfits, can feel a unique and precious unity that has risen as a result of all the time we had spent together: eating meals, experiencing new sights, and most importantly, pouring our sweat and energy into rehearsing music we love.
In a concert, everything becomes extra special: Every note becomes more sorrowful, more cheerful, or more exciting. I find myself almost moved to tears by the powerful melody of the horn in the Shostakovich Symphony’s Third Movement. On the other side of the emotional spectrum, my stand partner and I simply cannot stop smiling when we hear the banjo solo in the encore, Gershwin's Porgy and Bess. It’s almost as if the performance isn’t directed straight at the audience, but rather at ourselves, the performers. The personal attachment each of us have with certain parts of the music then contributes to the overall beauty and stage presence of the performance that captivates the audience.
In addition, the concentration and focus from all the players practically increases twofold during a concert. When we look up to Maestro Gergiev to begin the concert, our faces are determined, readying ourselves for the first sparkling notes of Sean Shepherd’s Magiya. This relentless concentration can be partly attributed to the spontaneity of performance. Everyone listens intently to Joshua Bell as he draws out the gorgeous melody in the Tchaikovsky, adjusting accordingly if he decides to take a little extra time or add some more movement. Sections of the orchestra continually adjust to what they receive from Maestro Gergiev, as well as what they absorb from their peers.
Sometimes, the orchestra encounters the unexpected. For example, only during a concert would a draft in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall blow our music to the wrong pages. Despite this, we all continue to play together. The contrabassoonist helps to turn the second bassoonist’s music back to the right page as she plays a tricky passage. A cellist slowly uses her bow to crease the page as her stand partner continues to play. Essentially, we are all there for each other.
In the end, the roar of the applause from a full house is a rewarding thing for an orchestra. Nothing makes me happier than the feeling that there are many people who appreciate the music you wish to share with the world. Everyone is grinning ear to ear as Gergiev comes back on stage, motioning for us to stand and pointing out the wonderful soloists along the way.
Needless to say, the concert experience is definitely one that I will never forget.