On Tuesday, I went to visit the Berklee Contemporary Symphony Orchestra during their last rehearsal before their concert tonight.
The director of the ensemble, Francisco Noya, who also serves as the resident conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, steps onto the platform; his first words are “hey, GUESS WHAT’S ON FRIDAY?” to which everyone responded with “THE CONCERT!” Both conductor and musicians seemed very excited and enthusiastic about their show.
Francisco is a funny and goofy-mannered man, but I could tell from the start of the rehearsal that he is very serious about the group’s performance. He started the rehearsal by going through specific parts of the piece that needed work. He concentrated first on particular instruments, making sure they knew their parts, where to come in, and where to cut off. Next, he had the whole orchestra play short parts of the piece that he knew were especially difficult. He was not afraid of cutting the musicians off after playing only one measure; it meant that he really wanted each section of the piece to be solid, which internalizes the song for the players. After twenty minutes of making sure all the difficult spots were addressed, he went on and had them play the entire piece. This time, he didn’t cut the musicians off unless there was a big problem, letting the players feel what playing the whole song would sound like. After they went through the whole piece successfully, Francisco wasn’t finished. His first words after they finished the piece were “That was great! Who wants to do it again?” Almost everyone raised his or her hand enthusiastically. The conductor and the orchestra seem to have a good relationship. The musicians responded well to his instructions, his hand motions, and his quirky sense of humor.
At one point, Francisco had the horn section raise their instruments to practice their cue, but told them not to play, explaining, “I know this might sound silly, but I want to SEE you come in, and I want you to get used to the motion.” The horn section was a bit confused by these instructions, but at the end of the exercise, their hands instinctively raised their instruments and made it easier to remember their cue.
The rehearsal ended on a positive note; both the conductor and the players seemed not only confident, but also excited about their performance. The show is this Friday, November 2nd, at 8:00pm. Come by the Northeastern University Fenway Center to hear some beautiful and free contemporary classical music. More information can be found at Berklee.edu/events.