Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

November 24, 2020

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, A Musicians’ Panel

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA

November 23, 2020

by Michael J. Moran


Formally titled “From the Heart of the SSO: A Musicians’ Panel,” the second in a new three-program series of “90-minute virtual lecture/music events” via Zoom featured five non-principal SSO players in conversation with SSO Education Director Kirsten Lipkens: first violinist Kathy Andrew; second violinist Anne-Marie Chubet; violist Elizabeth Rose; Assistant Principal double bassist Alexander Svensen; and trombonist Paul Bellino.


Like most orchestras, the SSO is a part-time ensemble, so along with their SSO tenures of six (Svensen) to thirty-three years (Rose),  all these musicians have had an impressive range of other professional music experience, such as teaching, being regular or substitute members of other orchestras, and performing in chamber music groups. Despite the challenges of this “patchwork” career pattern, including much long-distance driving from gig to gig, all shared a deep commitment to the “elation” of playing music for a live audience.


Some of their most revealing insights concerned the inner workings of their craft, from auditions (focusing what in any other field would be a traditional job interview into a “very pressure-ful” 2-3 minutes of performance time behind a screen); rehearsals (several weeks of home study with musical scores followed by 10 hours of Thursday-Friday group work before one Saturday concert, which Rhodes’s “ultra-efficient” rehearsal style ensures will be “a good performance”); and working together (learning to listen to each other is “all about blending” and good preparation for life). 


Among their most memorable SSO experiences were: unguarded backstage moments at Symphony Hall with pops concert guest stars Ella Fitzgerald, Bobby Short, and Art Garfunkel; and performing “O Fortuna” from Orff’s “Carmina Burana” at a 2015 New England Patriots game in Foxborough celebrating the team’s fourth Super Bowl championship before 75,000 fans (Svensen recalled thinking, “I’ll never hear a louder audience”).  


All five musicians clearly value the great camaraderie and inspiring leadership they experience as committed members of the SSO. Lipkens, who is also a substitute SSO oboist, was a genial and empathetic host. The last event in this series is: “Entering Bach’s World,” with music educator Andrew Leonard on December 2 at 7:30 pm.