It's hard to believe how good the CSO sounds, considering the beating we've taken the past year.
Tonight we had our first concert back in the Ohio Theater since last May, and we sounded incredible.
Last week we played Holst's The Planets in Vets Memorial Auditorium, a cavernous hall with no stage shell, and we sounded darn good there.
During rehearsals at Vets, without the audience, we could hear just enough acoustical feedback from the hall to taper releases of chords together, something we have not been able to do, or had the acoustical security to accomplish to such high degree, in the Ohio Theater.
I was impressed how the orchestra brought together details of performance after so many months apart. With a near full capacity audience during the concert in Vets, the acoustics were drier, and a bit more difficult to hear across the stage, especially with no shell. But many of the rehearsal details stuck.
Tonight's concert went even better, despite Ohio Theater's overly booming stage acoustics. (think of trying to whisper an intimate poem to a lover in a crowded subway station)
The Ohio Theater stage is a literal "box", since the proscenium of the historical 1920s movie theater is much too narrow to allow complex orchestral sounds to blossom from the stage to the audience. This causes two problems. First, the musicians must constantly filter the roar of all the excess sound on stage in order to play with depth and beauty, rather than "shouting" to be heard over each other. Secondly, since much of the sound remains on stage, bouncing around, the audience receives only a reduced portion of the music making from the stage.
But the orchestra sounded as good in the Ohio Theater as it has in years, even better!
At first I thought is was our guest conductor, David Lockington, who holds his own with a crisp ear and heartfelt, intuitive phrasing. But the reason we sounded good was due to more than Mr. Lockington's care.
It wasn't until after the concert that I realized the inspiration behind the orchestra's crisp and unified style.
After only two years of conducting us as Music Director, our beloved Junichi Hirokami has left his mark. The Columbus Symphony is several notches better than before his appointment as our musical leader.
We now play with more stable internal rhythm, better blending of colors and with more intimate phrasing because of Junich Hirokami's influence.
Junichi Hirokami may not have spoken English very well. He may not have met the ego and image demands of the city's elite. He may not have satisfied the masochistic tendencies of some musicians who feel that orchestra musicians need a tyrant to whip them into playing their best.
Junichi's strategy was different from the start. He invited us, in a fun, lighthearted way, to believe in ourselves, to trust our musical instincts and our natural desire to improve, to play better and to enjoy what we do, no matter what political poison seeps into the well water.
Just think of where we could have gone if he had been invited to continue here! (If only all parties had been able to overcome the petty desire for revenge over unfortunate words, events which now appear tragically selfish compared to the music we could have made!)
The great paradox of making music is that it is, on the one hand, a critically difficult task, yet one which requires an optimistic and eager spirt in order to be accomplished to the highest level.
Not to worry, the musicians will carry forward the torch of high quality music making. Hopefully we won't quickly forget the inspiration behind our step up in quality as an orchestra.
Tonight, the musicians of the Columbus Symphony showed that we have chosen to move to the next level of orchestral quality.
We don't need anyone to understand what we do and what it's worth, because we know as much, and much more.
And it shows.