The Grand Valley Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of associate professor Henry Duitman, performed three concerts in London in May, honing not only their performance skills, but also learning the various aspects of touring.
The 14-member orchestra performed at Kingston University, the London College of Music and at St. John’s Church, as part of the Notting Hill Chamber Music Series. The producer of the series posted Grand Valley’s performances on the Music Chamber website.
“This was the first European tour of the Chamber Orchestra,” said Duitman, director of orchestral activities at Grand Valley. “Daily performances of the same repertoire in different venues hone ensemble performance more than any number of rehearsals. Our students were able to listen to each other and react to each other’s musical gestures with far greater finesse than ever before.”
Chamber Orchestra student Kaja Lill said the trip strengthened the connection between orchestra members and created professional relationships and friendships across thousands of miles. “As an ensemble we had to opportunity to do a first proper touring experience, where you play the same music at many locations and get to experience the type of focus it requires to perform in this manner,” said Lill. “We also got to meet other undergraduates like us and find out what being student of music means in London.”
The performance tour was a result of the ongoing partnership between Grand Valley and Kingston University. Duitman said the music programs at both Kingston University and the London College of Music seem to emphasize composition and digital media more than ensemble performance. “Kingston University no longer has an orchestra,” he said. “I believe that one of their reasons for sponsoring our trip was to encourage London students who are interested in instrumental performance to spend a semester at Grand Valley, learning how to perform as part of a disciplined college ensemble.”
Student Holly Cassell spent the first eight years of her life in England and said the trip was laden with the nostalgia that one feels for their childhood. “Although we were performing in a different venue each night, I felt very comfortable and at home in all of them,” she said. “A group of us went to see the house where Handel had lived. They had replicas of the harpsichords that he would have played. Interestingly enough, Jimi Hendrix had lived in the house next door — perhaps this is the place to live to acquire musical genius!”