By Brooke McAfee
As the auditorium fills up, the sounds of the orchestra tuning and small portions of various melodies drift to the ears of the audience. The musicians cannot be seen, hidden within the orchestra pit in front of the stage, but when the show begins, they will have a crucial role to play in the musical.
Senior Garrett Jones, who is playing bassoon and conducting three songs for the upcoming production of The Scarlet Pimpernel, explained the process of becoming involved with the pit orchestra.
“When the staff feels that these parts can be covered by students, they ask other directors who the students are they feel are appropriate for these parts, have the skill level to take them on, and have the time,” he said.
Jones said being in the pit orchestra is a unique experience.
“It is a different musical environment than anything else I’m in. No one sees you when you perform, but the performance has very high stakes. The playing is on and off, and there are people singing to it also. That is like nothing I would do anywhere else, with all my musical endeavors.”
Senior Anna Stephens, who is playing oboe and English horn in the musical said the orchestra requires plenty of personal responsibility.
“There are definitely less people than you normally experience in band, but the level of skill is not necessarily any less. In fact, sometimes it is more concentrated, I would say, and you are the only person on that part…there’s a microphone, and everything you play is heard.”
Junior Zach Rich is playing trombone and euphonium in the pit orchestra, and said he enjoys working with the theater.
“My favorite part would probably have to be seeing the show come together with all of the great actors on stage and us musicians down in the pit, it’s an awesome experience when we put it all together for the first time.”
Rich said he also enjoys the music of The Scarlet Pimpernel, and is enthusiastic about the upcoming performances.
“I really like The Scarlet Pimpernel music. It’s gonna be hard to top Les Mis, but I am really enjoying the music as a whole…it is a fun yet challenging experience. I am glad to be in the pit and can’t wait until the performances next week.”
Stephens said one of the challenges includes meeting the high expectations and working with professional musicians.
“They have expectations for you, the director has expectations, and theater has expectations that you will be able to play the music perfectly, like as soon as you start rehearsing, you have to be in it with your mind, step up the challenge, and just be able to play,” she said.
Other difficulties include time management and playing the music in a different setting than many student musicians are used to.
“During hell week, there’s a lot of time management challenges, but just in preparing the show…sometimes the books you get for your parts are really hard, and sometimes parts of the show are just weird with how they line up with the singers. It’s hard just because it is different. The music can be easy and yet it will still be more challenging than many of the other things I do,” said Jones.
Stephens said the experience is worth the hard work, exhaustion, and long hours of rehearsal, and her favorite part of her involvement is her love of the music.
“Even though you can’t see what’s happening, you know the story, and after playing it so many times, you just have this special musical connection with the play. Especially for me, music is very emotional and very important in my life, so it is kind of amazing to have that experience and connection with the music.”
The Scarlet Pimpernel will be playing on March 7, 8, 14, 15 at 7:30 p.m., and March 9 and 16 at 2 p.m.