How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Go to Choate.

Photo by Hannah Price

Each year, CRHO takes to Carnegie Hall to display its talent on one of the world’s best venues.

Apply to Choate, and, sooner rather than later, you’ll notice the arts program. Choate Rosemary Hall boasts an extraordinary program, which includes the Choate Symphony Orchestra (CRHO), composed of passionate and talented musicians from all over the world. The Choate Symphony Orchestra, led by the “mighty maestro” Mr. Phil Ventre, has recently been extremely busy with so many concerts and performances scheduled for the first few weeks of spring term. Already, they have performed for prospective students during Spring Revisit Days, for senior citizens in a retirement home called Ashlar Village, as well as for musicians, music-enthusiasts, and parents at the legendary Carnegie Hall in New York City.

Ashlar Village is a retirement home in Wallingford. On Tuesday, April 4, CRHO performed three pieces at this retirement home: “Uke Can’t Be Serious,” “Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2” featuring David Park ‘17, and “Dvořák Carnival Overture Op. 92.”

The Ashlar Village concert was special for the orchestra — although it was not the first time that the musicians in the orchestra had performed for a group of senior citizens, it was a memorable and heartwarming experience for many of them. Se Ri Lee ’19, a violinist, commented, “Playing at a retirement home felt completely different. It felt more personal and intimate — literally, some of the senior members of Ashlar sat only a few feet away from me and my stand partner. During our time at Ashlar, I came to understand how music can bring warmth and joy into a community, how it completely transforms the atmosphere into which it enters. I was glad to have been part of this wonderful experience.”

Noah Lee ’20 was also very touched by this performance. He remarked, “The Choate Orchestra plays at some of the most famous venues all over the world. However, I think that this concert was special because we are able to give the gift of music to people who are unable to go out to concerts.”

Ashlar Village was a special concert for not only the orchestra, but for Mr. Jim Beloff ’73. He, playing the ukulele, joined the orchestra in performing “Uke Can’t Be Serious”, a piece composed by Mr. Beloff himself and commissioned by Mr. Ventre, to celebrate his mother’s birthday.

This performance received raving reviews from the audience. At Ashlar Village, the seniors who came to watch were all incredibly satisfied and impressed. Ms. Sandra Gilbert, the Activities Coordinator at Ashlar Village, wrote in an e-mail to Mr. Ventre, “Your concert was positively wonderful! Our residents have been raving about for the last two days. They were so impressed with the quality of performance by all the players… I will tell you that it brought tears to one resident’s eyes.”

Lee also noted, “After our performance, we had the chance to talk to some of the seniors at Ashlar Village… I still remember one of the seniors who loved David’s solo performance saying how much he wanted to learn the piano.”

Another major event for CRHO was performing one of the world’s most famous music venues: Carnegie Hall. This was not the first time that the orchestra had performed at Carnegie Hall — in fact, the orchestra had performed there two years ago. However, it was a first for many third and fourth form students, and for several fifth form students as well. It was Se Ri’s first time visiting and performing at Carnegie Hall. She commented, “The acoustics, the grandeur of the hall, and just everything about it was all so amazing. I’m glad we were given the opportunity to perform in such a marvelous place.”

Even the students who had been there before marvelled at the wonders of the hall. Lee said, “This was my third time performing in Carnegie Hall. The first two times I performed in the smaller performance hall, but this was my first time in Stern Auditorium. The hall is beautiful and has a lot of history behind it. The acoustics in the hall are some of the best I’ve ever heard. It’s an honor to play at a concert hall with so much history behind it.”

At Carnegie Hall, the orchestra performed two of the three pieces they performed at Ashlar Village: Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 featuring Park as the soloist once again, and Dvořák Carnival Overture Op. 92. They had already performed these two pieces several times prior to Carnegie Hall, at one school meeting as well as during Spring Revisit Days, so many members of the orchestra felt as though they were well-rehearsed, even though they did not get a chance to rehearse on stage before the actual performance. Chloe Choi ‘19 explained, “The orchestra has spent almost two full terms rehearsing for this performance, so most of us had all the necessary muscle memory down for Carnegie Hall to be a great success.”

Overall, the orchestra was satisfied with their performance at Carnegie Hall. Reflecting on the performance, Emma Lien ’18 remarked, “I think we performed well because the audience was highly appreciative — they gave us a standing ovation, and that is a huge compliment.”

Lee added, “I think we played very well. There were a few spots, especially in Dvořák, where we weren’t exactly all together, but I think we played well, considering that we didn’t rehearse before our performance. Also, the audience loved David’s solo!”

Not only was the experience wonderful for the musicians, but it was also a great bonding experience for the orchestra as a whole. Annett Ho ’18, concert master, expressed her content with having performed alongside  some of her closest friends, including the seniors who would soon be graduating. “Being able to perform in Stern Hall, the biggest hall in Carnegie Hall, was a nice experience for me because I got to share it with my friends. The whole bonding experience with the orchestra afterwards at the Russian Tea Room was also nice. One other thing that was special about it was that I got to play with David — he’s leaving, and I got to play with him.”

One Comment

  1. Great article, by a fantastic author! We have so much talent at this wonderful school, I’m glad we get to share it. Also, enjoyed the mention of the “mighty maestro!”

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