This past Saturday, the Washington University Pops Orchestra had its end of the semester concert in the E. Desmond Lee Concert Hall at the 560 Music Building.
If you haven’t read my “Upcoming: Rhapsody in BluePops” blogspot yet, here’s a link to it: https://360.wustl.edu/2015/04/upcoming-rhapsody-in-bluepops/
Of course, it takes a lot of work to put up such a big concert for both the musicians and the WUPops Executive Board running it. I am going to focus on three parts: the practices, the dress rehearsal, and the actual concert.
The picture above is the stage from from the audience’s perspective.
The video attached below is a 15 second video clip of our concert! It’s a clip from How to Train Your Dragon. Enjoy!
Even though WUPops is supposed to be “stress-free,” the rehearsals are still very important. This is especially true in the last couple of practices in the midst of exam season. Some musicians were so dedicated that they came for the part of rehearsal that they can make, despite taking an exam that evening.
Currently, we have three conductors- two “head” conductors and one “assistant” conductor. All three of them are extremely talented, and each of them conducted a couple of pieces during the actual concert. During practices, they will divide up the two hours (from 7 pm-9 pm) into three parts. The conductors will work with the orchestra in their corresponding time frame.
Whenever a conductor is not up there on the podium conducting, he/she is sitting with the orchestra, playing their instruments. I really admire this part about WUPops—the conductors are not really that much different from the other musicians. We also play with them as an ensemble.
This is probably the most stressful of all the rehearsals every semester: the last rehearsal before the performance. Since our concert was at 7 pm, our dress rehearsal began at 4:45 p.m. This way, we could practice for around an hour, eat dinner (and socialize with friends!), and then get ready for the concert. I was part of a smaller chamber group, the Carnivorous Strings, so my group actually had to arrive there around 3:45 pm (even earlier, yikes) to practice before the dress rehearsal.
I know the dress rehearsal probably sounds really intense right now, but it actually isn’t that bad. The conductors understood the importance of stamina—they didn’t want to “overwork” the musicians before the concert. I’m a string player, so I don’t get tired as easily as the brass players. In fact, during the dress rehearsal, one of the head conductors asked the trumpet players to not blast their instruments (or just to not play unless they have a vital section in a piece). This way, they can play their instruments to the best of their ability during the actual concert.
Additionally, during the dress rehearsal, we played the pieces in concert order. This is different from the usual practices in which one conductor goes to the podium and conducts all of his/her pieces. For the concert, the pieces have a specific order, so sometimes one conductor must get up there, come down again, and then go up again later on.
Performing in the WUPops concert is a privilege. This is the reward for our hard work the entire semester—let me do the math for you. Each rehearsal is two hours long, not including 30 minutes for transportation. This semester, we had 15 practices. If we include transportation time, 2.5 hours x 15 is 37.5 hours. This is not including extra practice time for the chamber ensembles (also 2 hours per week) and individual practice time (which varies depending on how much you practice on your own—I practiced for at least 5 hours the week leading up to the concert).
Wow! That is a LOT of practicing…all for a concert, is it worth it?
This is one thing that WUPops is proud of—the musicians enjoy playing music, and that is why they are in it. The end goal isn’t to put up a perfect concert. It is perfectly fine to make mistakes in the actual concert. I made a couple mistakes playing notes during the concert, but immediately laughed about them instead of feeling bad about messing up.
The most exciting parts about the concerts for me, however, were the raffles and senior gifts. In every concert, there are three raffle prizes to give out to audience members who purchased tickets. These prizes come in three baskets, with each basket containing one single theme that matches one song that WUPops will perform in the concert. In this semester’s baskets, for example, contained items from How to Train Your Dragon.
In addition, before our final piece in the concert, we handed out gifts for each senior in the orchestra. This is to thank them for their time in WUPops and to give them something that they can remember us by.
~ Nancy <33