At the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s spring concert on Sunday, March 9, you can see exactly what local elementary and middle schoolers think of Gustav Mahler’s “Song of a Wayfarer” — not only will their Mahler-inspired artwork be hanging in Palace Theatre’s side gallery, it’ll be blasted onstage via gigantic projection screen.
Since the Philharmonic’s first Drawn to Music concert eight years ago, nearly 4,000 illustrations by children from 35 New Hampshire schools have been submitted. This year, interest was no different: more than 500 students submitted artwork, about 100 pieces of which will accompany the orchestral piece directed by Mark Latham this weekend.
One intent of the program is to involve younger generations with the Philharmonic.
“They get pretty electric when they look up and see their work on display. They realize they’re part of making this concert happen,” New Hampshire Philharmonic Executive Director Paul Hoffman said in a phone interview.
But the illustrations do more than simply bring in shorter audience members. Many listeners, adults included, find the drawings help them better understand the performed works.
“The existence of the student artwork helps to enhance the experience for the adults in the concert hall,” Hoffman said. “With some of the works we do, if you’re just sitting down and hearing it for the first time, it can be a lot to take in. But what we find is that having the student artwork, quite honestly, is a really nice visual aid to what’s really happening in the piece.”
The art/music combo also keeps the crowd’s youngest audience members rapt.
“It’s an interesting thing. Often when you go into a concert hall, you’ll see kids restless, impatient. But this is the quietest audience I’ve ever experienced. These kids are wrapped up in it, looking at the screen hanging over the orchestra while they play. They’re very focused on the images, and because of that focus, the music is getting embedded in their ears as well,” Hoffman said.
The interpretations in these images vary; some artists illustrated the backstory of “Songs of a Wayfarer” after reading about it on the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s website. Others created something entirely new based on what they heard.
This program is one of many in the Philharmonic’s efforts to make classical music more accessible to younger audiences. Another is the reduced ticket prices — all children and students can now attend the Philharmonic’s concerts for $5 — and another is the group of new, fresh faces that will shine onstage come March 9. In addition to Mahler’s work, which will be sung by guest vocalist Paul Max Tipton, the two winners of the orchestra’s youth concerto competition, high school seniors Paul Bergeron and Zheyang Xiang, will present Brahms’ Double Concerto (first movement).
“It’s very dynamic and it’s very bold music,” Bergeron said in a phone interview. “It’s strong, powerful, and the string part is very virtuosic. There’s a lot of excitement to it; it moves quite quickly, but it also has some very lyrical, singing melodies, which makes it very enjoyable.”
Included on the night’s schedule is Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and, for the grand finale, Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” which will be accompanied by a crowd of University of New Hampshire musicians.
“We were looking for a program that would be stimulating to players and enjoyed by the audience,” Latham said in a phone interview. “The music itself changes a lot. It has many different aspects to it. … We’ll have a bigger orchestra than usual for ‘Pines of Rome,’ which is a good thing, because it’s a massive piece. We’re ending with this great climactic finale with a huge orchestra. I don’t think we’ve done it this big with the New Hampshire Philharmonic.”
As seen in the March 6, 2014 issue of the Hippo.