Community String Orchestra plans public sharing for May 30
LAKE PLACID — The group of string players prepped their instruments in the Lake Placid Synagogue Thursday — tuning violins, waxing horsehair bows, making small edits to sheet music. Some were young. Some were old. Some had played for decades, and some were just starting their musical journeys. Age and experience didn’t matter, as long as they were there to learn and participate.
“We have absolute beginners to professionals and everyone in between,” said Esther Rogers, director of the Community String Orchestra of the Adirondacks. “There’s about 20-plus people right now. One of our youngest was 6 years old and the oldest was 86.”
Rogers, a professional cello player who teaches at Keene Central School and conducts private lessons, started the orchestra in 2017. She said people would see her play and say, “Oh, I used to play violin when I was younger, and I want to get back into it,” or “I like the cello, but I never have anyone to play with.” So she decided to bring all those people together.
“Also, for students, Saranac Lake and Lake Placid (public schools) don’t have orchestras, so this gives those kids a chance to practice their instruments in a group,” Rogers said.
The community orchestra has two sessions, one in the fall and one in the spring, both lasting about seven to eight weeks. Rehearsals are Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. The location sometimes changes and can be found on the group’s website at adkstrings.org.
Even though Rogers is the director, she allows seasoned players to teach lessons and take the lead every now and then.
Thursday’s practice started with Alison Simcox, local cellist and marketing director for the Lake Placid Center for the Arts, teaching a quick eurhythmics lesson. No, it’s not the group that sings “Sweet dreams are made of this.” Eurythmics is not quite dancing, more so movement and kinetics, in general. It was designed to help students feel the beat, tempo and structure of music in their bodies as opposed to just on the page.
“It’s a methodology for learning how to play an instrument,” Simcox said. “For me its a way of re-understanding whatever music you’re working on.”
She turned Gioachino Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” It’s the song from that classic Mickey Mouse cartoon where’s he trying to orchestrate a band, but Donald Duck keeps ruining it with his flute rendition of “Turkey in the straw.” Simcox told the group to feel the music and move in whatever way felt appropriate.
It may have looked a little silly and some folks were embarrassed at first, but the group started to feel the vibe of the exercise. Some took large steps around the room while other galloped and trotted quickly like show horses.
“When you’re learning an instrument, especially strings, and you’re not a child, there’s a sense of seriousness around it,” Simcox said. “To do something that’s so playful is unexpected, but plenty of studies found that play helps you learn more effectively.”
Simcox moved to the North Country recently and started playing with the orchestra in the fall.
“I had not played in an orchestra for a while, so excited about having an opportunity so soon after moving to a new place,” she said. “It seems like they created this space for people in the Tri-Lakes and beyond that’s super welcoming and creative.”
After the Eurythmics, local violin player and teacher Bill Stokes conducted an arrangement of the calypso song “Yellow Bird.” It’s a departure from traditional orchestral music with a more bouncy, Caribbean feel.
“I feel like the more advanced a player is, the more they can share and the more they can be involved,” Rogers said. “They’re not restricted to just playing their instrument.”
This is the first year the orchestra will hold a public sharing of music.
“Some of the members were a little hesitant at first, so we just did a private show,” Rogers said. “But now, we’ve gotten to a point where I think we’re ready to play for more people.”
The show is Thursday, May 30, at the Lake Placid Synagogue at 6:30 p.m.