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Students get a close-up look
of the Atlantic Symphony's musicians

Posted by dinouye  January 27, 2010 02:43 PM

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Horn player Lee Wadenphul greets a visitor at last year's concert. (Lynn Layman photo)

Called ‘‘Thrills and Trills,’’ this Sunday's family-oriented concert by the Atlantic Symphony features Russell Peck’s introduction to the orchestra (‘‘The Thrill of the Orchestra’’), plus favorites such as selections from ‘‘Carmen,’’ ‘‘Star Wars,’’ and Massenet’s sublime ‘‘Meditation.’’

But when the concert is over, more fun is just beginning as the orchestra’s principal players come down from the stage to show how they play their instruments and answer questions from youngsters (and adults) in the audience.

The interactive ‘‘Instrument Showcase’’ features musicians from the string, woodwind, brass, and percussion sections — about a dozen in all.

Children like getting close to the instruments, and musicians like these face-to-face interactions with future musicians, too, said Timur Rubinshteyn, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s principal timpanist.

‘‘They love this stuff. They pick up the instruments. They pick up mallets. Some play softly, some play loud. It’s interesting to see what different kids do,’’ Rubinshteyn said.

The session will offer young people a chance for a close inspection and maybe a whack at the percussion instruments used in the concert’s program — bass drums, cymbals, snare drums, and the triangle needed to sound the sleigh bells in ‘‘Troika,’’ Prokofiev’s musical evocation of a sleigh ride through the Russian snow.

Rubinshteyn will also bring ‘‘a bag of small instruments,’’ tools of the timpanist’s trade for adding tonal color to musical compositions. These include a rain stick (a shell filled with beans, which sound like rain as they slowly fall from one end to the other), maracas, a güiro (a hollowed-out gourd played with a scraper), and frame drums — an ‘‘ethnic music’’ drum consisting of a drumhead with a width greater than its depth.


The Discovery Concert has been an essential part of the orchestra’s season since music director Jin Kim’s (left) arrival 13 years ago, when the orchestra was known as the Hingham Symphony. And while younger children have their chance to get close to its principal players and their instruments after the concert, some older ones will be up on the stage rubbing elbows with them during it. High school singers and instrumentalists will take part in three pieces.

The Hingham High School Chamber Orchestra will join in on ‘‘Troika.’’ The chamber orchestra plus the Thayer Academy and Hingham High choruses will perform in the ‘‘Hallelujah’’ chorus from Handel’s ‘‘Messiah’’ and in ‘‘Sunrise at Yellowstone,’’ a choral tone poem by Audrey Snyder.

Each school chorus picked a piece from its own performance repertoire and learned the other group’s piece, Hingham High School choral director Joseph Young said.

‘‘The concept of the program is wonderful,’’ Young said by e-mail, ‘‘a multilevel collaboration between professional instrumental musicians and student musicians from two schools.’’ His students ‘‘will learn a lot about standards of performance’’ by working with a high-quality orchestra, he said.

The Atlantic Symphony believes its Discovery Concerts offer a role-modeling experience on a couple of levels, said Nina Wellford, the orchestra’s managing director. Younger children in the audience see high school students on the stage playing with a professional orchestra, while high schoolers sit alongside the musicians — many of them young adults themselves.

The community education side of the concert is supported by the orchestra’s Partners in Music Education program, which offers area high schools 10 free tickets to four concerts each year. The schools distribute the tickets, and the concert get an extra buzz by having more young people in the audience — typically about 60 free ticket holders.

The orchestra likes having them, Wellford said; the students tend to stay for receptions afterward and ask good questions.

The Atlantic Symphony Orchestra's "Discovery Concert: Thrills and Trills" begins at 3 p.m. Sunday at Thayer Academy, 745 Washington St., Braintree. Tickets are $15 for adults; $5 for children 18 and younger.

Robert Knox can be reached at

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