Claremont Concert Orchestra Sparks Beauty in 'Firebird' Suite

Shined black, polished brass, and glossy wood filled the stage of Scripps College's Garrison Theater on Saturday as musicians from the Claremont Concert Orchestra gave a dazzling performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, and Stravinsky’s The Firebird Suite.

In the minutes before the performance, people piled into the red velvet seats, skirting around each other to scope out the best view. The members of the orchestra were skimming their bows across the strings, preparing their brass and woodwind instruments, rehearsing quickly and precisely what the audience would soon hear.

Stomping their feet to applause as the lights dimmed, the musicians straightened in their seats, ready to put months of practice to good use.

The first movement, Allegro, commenced with a strong piano entry, emphasized by rapid arpeggio flourishes ascending and descending on the keys of the piano, with sudden forte bursts of unison chords from the orchestra. With the piano carrying the piece forward, frequenting emotional tremolos, the orchestra accompanied the piano solo with a combination of arpeggiated sequences, crescendos, modulations, and dialogue.

Considering the fact that the piece lasts approximately 45 minutes, and the piano performs the chief melodies, Tae Ha “Jeff” Park HM ’17, the pianist, must have needed a lot of stamina, concentration, and passion balanced with a sense of looseness to clear his nerves.

“I think [Park] was incredible. He had a lot of great technique, lots of emotion and musicality and was very fluid with his playing," Andrew Kim PO ’20, a contrabass player, said.

The audience members — mostly students and parents with their children — all watched with interest at the technical skill and diligence Park exuded. Even the other musicians on stage appeared to admire his abilities as Park glided through the flourishes with a delicate but meaningful touch, nodding appreciatively to both the mood and rhythms.

Kim, who has been playing the contrabass for six years and has been a part of fifteen groups in the last few years, provided his take on the performance.

“We’ve been rehearsing for around two months. A lot of people have been working pretty hard for this,” he said, remarking on the hours of effort put in by everyone each week.

He appreciated the response from the audience. Although it was small, “the audience seemed relatively enthusiastic.”

“The best part of performing is showing the audience that classical music doesn’t necessarily have to be boring; there’s a lot of energy and passion that goes into it,” he said.  

When asked about nerves before a performance, Kim acknowledged that the “nerves never really go away.” However, warming up is crucial and simple things like breathing or meditating help combat nerves, according to Kim.

At the end of the performance, the audience erupted into a long applause and then a standing ovation.

Sabrina Wong PO ’20 enjoyed both the pieces that were performed. She said that she liked watching the musicians’ focus on stage and the way they were able to both play and listen to the other parts around them simultaneously.

“They were really tuned in to the music holistically while also centering on their individual melodies. It was quite remarkable to watch as well as listen to," she said.