Conant orchestra students perform with international touring act
The Conant orchestra, along with other D211 students, played in concert alongside a professional music group called Barrage 8 in Conant’s auditorium on Saturday, February 25.
Barrage 8 consists of nine young, professional musicians who perform and teach music all over the world. The group visits exceptional string programs and works and performs in concert with them. They play music such as classical, pop, jazz, and more. The group tries to make their concerts different and memorable by adding singing, dancing, and audience participation to their performances.
The students got the opportunity to play with the group due to Orchestra Teacher Heather Lofdahl’s friendship with a violinist of the group, Deena Rizkalla. “This year a good friend of mine, Deena Rizkalla, violinist, started performing with Barrage 8, so she contacted me and asked if we’d be willing to host Barrage 8 at Conant. Of course, I said yes,” Lofdahl explained.
She added, “Now the students have this awesome opportunity to learn from and perform with the group.”
Barrage 8 performed a variety of songs during the first half of the concert, including “Uptown Funk,” “Old Joe Clark,” and “Classical Gas.” Some songs were covers, but others, like “Mountain Spring,” were written by the Musial Director of Barrage 8, Dean Marshall.
Performers danced around the stage while they played, sang, and encouraged the audience to dance, sing, and clap along. One of the Barrage 8 members even tap danced while playing her violin. During the concert, the students played two songs with Barrage 8, “Mountain Spring” and “Calypso Jam,” after the intermission. They stood during the performance, instead of sitting down, so that they could move around and dance while playing, like Barrage 8 did.
Leah Pope, ’18, said, “It was a new and very enjoyable experience to play alongside a professional group, and watching their other pieces was just as fun.”
“It was an amazing experience because [Barrage 8] was so inspiring and taught me how to enjoy what I’m playing and not just how to play it,” Anushka Shah, ’18, added.
For the last song of the concert, Lofdahl performed on stage with Barrage 8. She said, “My getting to play was a last-minute decision. About three hours before the concert, my friend Deena, who plays in the group, asked if I would be willing to participate in the performance.”
This is a routine the group does normally, surprising both the students and the audience by having the orchestra teacher come out and play a song or two with them. “I’ve been asking my students to get out of their comfort zones since we started this process, so I had to agree to get out of mine, but I was honestly a bit nervous. It was a lot of fun to play what I knew, improvise a little bit, let the energy of a live performance take over, and just get into the the music in the moment,” Lofdahl added.
The students attended two rehearsals before the concert, one after school on Friday and one on Saturday before the concert. During the Friday rehearsal, the students participated in a workshop led by Barrage 8.
Lofdahl said, “First, the students were divided up by instrument, so their violinists could work with the violin students, the violist can work with the viola students, their cellist can work with the cello students, and their bassist can work with the base students. Learning from professional musicians who specialize in playing the same instrument as the students do will help the students improve their ability to play instruments at a high level.”
Then, the students, continued the workshop as a group and worked on preparing for the Saturday concert. They specifically worked on musical concepts and stage presence.
Maddy Osten, ’19, said, “Barrage 8 taught us to feel the music and not just play it, which is something we don’t normally do.”
During Saturday’s rehearsal, the students did a run through of the show, including playing the music and dancing.
“All of the skills the Barrage 8 musicians taught benefitted the orchestra students in their growth as musicians. The orchestra students have gotten to learn music that is written in a different style from what we normally play, so this experience has broadened their musical pallete,” Lofdahl explained.
To learn more about Barrage 8 click here.