Monthly Archives: July 2013

The Real Deal: A Message from Conductor Ben Niemczyk, from Lincoln Center

This past Saturday, NewWSO Conductor Ben Niemczyk and Executive Director/bassist Belinda Kan attended the free first concert of the 2013 Mostly Mozart Festival at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC. Belinda waited in line for the free tickets starting at 7:45am. It was worth getting up early, because she was able to get great seating on stage, right behind the orchestra (conveniently for both of them, behind the basses and almost directly in front of Conductor Louis Langrée), when ticket distribution started at 10am.

The program was Mozart Symphony 40 and Beethoven Symphony 7. NewWSO, being the ambitious group that we are, plays movements from both works. From their seats Ben and Belinda could see that the Mostly Mozart orchestra musicians were playing from the same editions as NewWSO musicians. NewWSO is the real deal and plays the real deal, except without the auditions!

The Mostly Mozart orchestra performs Beethoven Symphony 5, another piece in the NewWSO repertoire, on Friday and Saturday, Aug 9 and 10. We highly recommend that you attend, and attempt to get stage seating tickets…if there are any left! Ben and Belinda will be there on Aug 10. Hearing Beethoven 5 performed live by a professional orchestra will be a great way to prepare for our performance of the first movement at our Fall Concert on October 20, 2013 in White Plains.

Here’s a post-concert video message from Ben:

You mean “crescendo” doesn’t always have to end loudly?

A rehearsal isn’t a rehearsal without Conductor Ben Niemczyk imploring, us, several times over, to play piano – softly, quietly, gently, gracefully. Many of us stopped our “formal” (was it ever that?) music training after high school, some after college. In elementary and high school, the goal was just to make sound, usually loud sound. Dynamics were not as much of priority as hitting the correct notes. However forte always seems to be easier than piano.

Nowadays, we are older and playing original editions of great symphonies rather than arrangements for school band or orchestra. But perhaps some of us are still stuck in our school-time ways, choosing pitches and rhythm over dynamics, which we know now to be essential to the shape, interest, and excitement of a great piece. Especially vexing are those dynamics in Beethoven’s works, where a crescendo sometimes ends not with a bang, but in the quietest piano. Another (frustrating!) example is when he notates crescendo from pianissimo… piano.

Here is an excerpt from a recent NY Times Op-Ed article by Miles Hoffman, the violist of the American Chamber Players and music commentator for “Morning Edition” on NPR, on the true meaning of crescendo – what it is and what it isn’t, both in literary and musical usage:

…Crescendos don’t have to end loudly: you can make a crescendo from extremely soft to moderately soft, or from moderately soft to moderately loud. And even if you make the most enormous crescendo in the world, you will not have “reached” anything until you get to the top. The one thing crescendo does not mean, in other words, and never has meant, is “climax.”

So the next time you read a sentence like, “The battle raged, until on the third day it reached a crescendo,” you will know that the author of the sentence has, to paraphrase Fowler’s Modern English Usage, injured the language….

Read the full article here, and next time you are tempted to play as loud as you can at the end of your crescendo….don’t! Unless Beethoven says so.

An Oldie But A Goodie: Joshua Bell Plays the Subway, Pulls In $32.17 for a 43 minute Performance

If you haven’t yet read this Washington Post article from 2007, do yourself a favor and please read the whole thing (yes, it’s long) and watch the time-lapse video of JB’s performance here: Washington Post 2007 Article on Joshua Bell posing as a subway musician

If you have read the article already, it’s worth reading again. The article and the experiment that JB agreed to raise many questions about the role of art, particularly music, in all of our busy lives. Pay special attention to this section:

Picarello knows classical music. He is a fan of Joshua Bell but didn’t recognize him; he hadn’t seen a recent photo, and besides, for most of the time Picarello was pretty far away. But he knew this was not a run-of-the-mill guy out there, performing. On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.

“Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn’t registering. That was baffling to me.”

When Picarello was growing up in New York, he studied violin seriously, intending to be a concert musician. But he gave it up at 18, when he decided he’d never be good enough to make it pay. Life does that to you sometimes. Sometimes, you have to do the prudent thing. So he went into another line of work. He’s a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Doesn’t play the violin much, anymore.

When he left, Picarello says, “I humbly threw in $5.” It was humble: You can actually see that on the video. Picarello walks up, barely looking at Bell, and tosses in the money. Then, as if embarrassed, he quickly walks away from the man he once wanted to be.

Does he have regrets about how things worked out?

The postal supervisor considers this.

“No. If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it’s not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever.”

We wish Mr. Picarello lived nearby so that he could pick up his violin again and play with us!

NewWSO Testimonial #1: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

A testimonial from NewWSO horn player Heidi G. of Port Chester:

The first things that come to mind are personal achievement, and an increased awareness of others. I dug my old flute out of the closet and jumped in with two feet and a lot of bad notes. The more I played the better I got and it felt good to get the old chops back.

Then out of need for a Horn in the orchestra, I once again jumped in with both feet. This is where I really feel that sense of accomplishment. From my first time playing it with the group, when I only knew 8 notes to now rocking the Beethoven 7 solo sometimes brings me to tears.

Learning anything new in your 40′s can be hard enough with life and work pulling you in all directions. But orchestra gives me focus. Playing with this wonderful group of people who are all working so hard to make great music is amazing. In order to make this great music sound great you have to listen. It’s important to listen to the conductor, yes, but almost more importantly to listed to the other players and make sure you are doing your part for the team. This has definately had a positive effect on my interpersonal skills outside of the rehearsal hall. I just love it.

All of what I just said spills out in our performances. The people who come to see us smile the whole time. Going to the Rehab facilities and Senior Residences is a way of giving back. These people gave in their lives. What? I don’t know but it’s nice to give back to them. It is especially wonderful when one of the seniors is a former player. To watch them watch us is hearwarming. You can see that they are playing along with us in their mind.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Friedrich Nietzsche

NewWSO Testimonial Series

Recently we asked orchestra members if they were willing to submit written testimonials about their experience playing with NewWSO. The guiding question was, “What is the need that you believe the New Westchester Orchestra fulfills either for you personally and/or for the community?” Members were informed that all or part of their testimonial might be given public exposure, and that the testimonials would NOT be anonymous.

We have gotten some very moving responses, and would like to share these with you in a series of blog posts. The testimonials posted here are quoted exactly as written by the members. There are some really deep thoughts here, but rest assured full permission was granted by the authors because they believed strongly in sharing their experience playing music in NewWSO with anyone who wants to know more about us.

We sincerely thank all members who contributed their thoughts on how NewWSO has impacted their lives and/or the lives of our community members.

Welcome to our blog!

Welcome to New Westchester Symphony Orchestra’s new blog!

How is this blog different from our website or Facebook page, you might ask?

Well, our website tells you all about who we are, what we play, where we rehearse and when perform. Did you catch the part that says we’re audition free and are open to new members of all ages and abilities?

Our Facebook page is more similar to this blog. That is, both are designed as a way for us to share interesting new information about the orchestra, current events, interesting videos and articles about music in general, etc. However, we know that not everyone is on Facebook, so we thought posting that same info on our blog would allow us to reach a wider audience.

Fair enough? Good! Subscribe to this blog to get notifications of new posts, and please leave your comments. Blogs can foster great conversation, and that’s just what we want – a way to foster conversation about the place of music and the arts in everyone’s lives.