Because the Hyde Park Youth Symphony could not have a live spring concert as they would normally do, they decided to have an online one. On May 20, they unveiled a 20-minute video that featured both music and spoken word. Both of the leaders of the organization, Matthew Sheppard and Lindsay Wright, spoke about their student groups, and some of the kids talked about the music and how they prepared. According to Wright, over 100 devices logged on to hear the concert.

The youngest children, members of the Preparatory Strings, were up first with Mark O’Connor’s “Beautiful Skies.” There were four young violinists and one cellist taking on this simple yet charming music. Next was a slightly older group of 18 kids who played the classic and timeless “Simple Gifts,” a wonderful choice for these difficult times. Finally, a very large group of older children took on the second movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2.

Wright, via an email, explained how the kids were able to keep time when each was being recorded individually at home by their parents. “I sent my groups master tracks of their pieces, in which I had recorded and combined the violin, viola, and cello parts, so they felt a bit more like they were playing along with an ensemble when they recorded [themselves]. Playing along in this way was a skill we practiced in our weekly Zoom rehearsals, so by the time we recorded our performance videos, they were pros at playing along with their peers digitally.”

Sheppard sent students a video in which he conducted (as well as sang and counted aloud), and they played along to that when they recorded their individual videos.

Wright also explained how the Virtual Orchestra Project was conceived: “We developed the Virtual Orchestra Project idea in order to showcase HPYS’s work together during our virtual spring concert cycle. We wanted to celebrate all that our students have learned together this spring, and this year: not only through the pieces we focused on in the virtual performance segments, but also through their reflections on wider set of skills and perspectives they gained as well-rounded musicians: how to listen in detail, lead, read and analyze scores, develop a steady internal pulse, understand and apply music theory terms and concepts — and also thinking about the greater reasons for cultivating musical community and performances, especially during difficult times.”

This video is archived online and you can view it at the Hyde Park Youth Symphony’s website. You can also get information on how to audition for the HPYS. Visit www.thehpys.net.

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