By GRACE LIU
The UHS Symphony Orchestra, led by director Mrs. Cathy Olinger, performed at the annual IUSD Orchestra Festival on Tuesday, March 19. The festival showcases performances from orchestras from all five of Irvine’s high schools: University, Woodbridge, Portola, Northwood and Irvine. Additionally, the festival gives students an opportunity to hear performances from other fellow high school musicians, as well as to receive feedback and comments from experienced judges.
Symphony Orchestra performed four movements from “A Downland Suite” by John Ireland, including Prelude, Elegy, Minuet, and Rondo. The ensemble used a variety of methods to prepare for the performance.
“We prepared through a combination of individual practice, sectionals and overall ensemble rehearsals,” junior cellist Sedong Hwang said.
In addition to practicing the overall basics of the piece, students also worked on the smaller, more specific details.
“We prepared by not only learning the notes, but matching our styles to the specific mood of each movement. For example, in Elegy we played with elegance and low bow strokes, while in Minuet we utilized sharp, precise bow articulation,” junior violinist Allison Kim said. “Most importantly, we focused on becoming a coherent sound by matching each other and following our section leaders: [senior violinist] Maddie Fruman, [sophomore violinist] Alex Qu, [senior violist] Kevin Cho, and [junior cellist] Sedong Hwang.”
However, in preparing for the district festival, Symphony Orchestra also faced multiple obstacles.
“It was quite challenging preparing for this, as we’ve had several different music teachers and substitutes, and also because we had to prepare for the Fine Arts Assembly at the same time,” junior violinist Esther Kim said. “Despite these obstacles, we gave our best efforts into everything we did and practiced hard…We performed our best and hopefully met the standards that other schools had for us from previous [performances].”
“Considering the time we had and the recent change in directors, I would say we managed to put together a very good performance,” senior bassist Rohan Chawla said.
While the judges at the festival only offered commentary without providing a scaled score, the students received mostly positive notes alongside some constructive criticism.
“The comments our judges left were mostly positive,” Allison said. “They applauded the musicianship of Kevin Cho, our viola section leader, [and] recognized talent and potential within our orchestra, but also commented that we lacked a contrast of dynamics.”
Even with the positive commentary, students felt that they could have done better as an ensemble.
“Overall, our orchestra fluently performed Downland Suite, but I believe we were capable of doing better. Next time I would like to encourage more proactiveness in our orchestra,” Allison said. “I believe just practicing outside of class and exerting better behavior [like being attentive, eager and respectful] in class would significantly improve the level of our next performance.”
Other students felt there were ways to improve musically as well. “Next time we want to improve dynamics, entrances, and overall be more musical, rather than just technically accurate,” junior violinist Kevin Ju said.
“We definitely have the talent, we just need to be better engaged during our rehearsals and performances,” Allison said.