Student instrumental ensembles host Chamber Music Concert


Sally Zhu

Harrison Chang (12) plays the marimba with two wooden bars in each hand at the Chamber Music Concert on Feb. 25. A total of 13 students performed in small instrumental ensembles in the Patil Theater to live and virtual audiences.

by Sally Zhu, A&E and Lifestyle Editor

13 upper school students performed a total of five instrumental pieces during the Chamber Music Concert on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Patil Theater, with instruments ranging from piano to violin to marimba. 

Chamber groups are smaller groups of one to four students. The Chamber Music Concert, organized by upper school instrumental director Dr. David Hart and senior instrumentalists, featured performances by five student groups, who had around a month to rehearse. Dr. Hart wanted students to perform at the concert in order to recognize the instrumentalists’ work and effort and also showcase their talents in smaller groups compared to an entire orchestra.

Attendees could book tickets online for free, and the upper school community could also view the performances through a live stream.

The concert opened up with an introduction and welcome by Dr. Hart to audience members, which included family members, fellow students, friends, faculty and staff.

“This whole year has been a celebration of getting back to music, live and in-person, and tonight is going to be a special night,” said Dr. Hart at the start of the concert. “We’ve always dreamt about a chance to do chamber music at Harker for a long time and we had an amazing group of students this year coming together with that same interest, and that culminated in this concert.”

With a ruckus of applause from the audience, Malar Bala (12) on the violin, Yvan Grinspan (12) on the piano and Matthew Chen (11) on the cello took the stage, performing “Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49 II,” a work by Felix Mendelssohn. Malar introduced the history and background of the piece and explained her reasoning for choosing it — the emotion and power brought by each of the instruments. 

Malar had chosen the piece and invited Matthew to play the cello part after they decided that the sound of the string instruments worked well together. Matthew felt more challenged playing in a three-person group but still enjoyed the on-stage experience. 

“When you’re playing on stage in a smaller group, you’re more vulnerable,” Matthew said. “[But] it was fun playing. If there’s a chance to play cello, I’ll always be open to it. Also, playing with other people in this setting, there’s a lot of fun, though it’s a bigger challenge than playing with yourself because you have to harmonize.”

Violinist Tina Zhong (12) and pianist Karolyn Cheng (12) took the stage next for their rendition of “Violin Sonata in E flat Major, Mvt. 1,” composed by Richard Strauss, a piece which the pair had worked on for the past month. Karolyn spoke about the piece’s passionate and quiet moments and parts for both instruments. After Tina tuned her violin briefly, the two students began the performance, filled with dramatic violin runs and soft piano melodies. 

Next up was Harrison Chang (12) playing the marimba for Emmanuel Séjourné’s “Concerto for Marimba and String Orchestra,” accompanied by his teacher Tammy Chen on the piano. After a brief introduction by Dr. Hart as the instrument was brought on stage, Harrison discussed the piece, which combines a number of genres that he felt could show the musical beauty of the marimba. Harrison held two wooden bars in each hand and maneuvered the six-foot instrument through the duration of the piece, concluding his performance with a soft trill that faded into silence. 

Following Harrison’s bows came a string quartet — April Zhang (12) on the violin, Austin Wang (12) on the violin, Sawyer Lai (11) on the viola and Bobby Wang (12) on the cello. After a quick stage transition by the technical theater crew, the group of four stepped onstage for “American String Quartet, Mvt. IV” by Antonin Dvorák, one of Sawyer’s favorite pieces. The students tuned their instruments and began the quartet, their four bows often moving in unison through the duration of the nearly six-minute-long piece. 

The show closed out with the trio of pianist Yejin Song (12), cellist Lucas Chen (12) and violinist Cassie May (11), who introduced their jazzy choice to perform “Cafe Music, Mvt. I Allegro,” a work of Paul Schoenfield, made for both dinner halls and concert halls. Under purple-blue stage lighting, the trio pulled off the piece full of string plucks and vibratos, all three lifting their hands in the air with the final notes. 

“I feel like playing in a trio is harder for me because there’s different instruments, so a piano sounds way different from a cello or violin, so everyone might be slightly more pressured just given that your part really stands out,” Cassie said. “But the most enjoyable part was probably just playing with my friends, Lucas and Yejin, and I thought we did a pretty good job.”

Dr. Hart welcomed all the performers back on stage for a group bow to conclude the show after which students joined with audience members outside the theater for a shower of flowers, congratulations and photos.

Additional reporting by Alena Suleiman.