The need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for music ensembles to practice together or hold performances, but even though Concordia’s Symphonic Band can no longer perform in the same space, they are still finding a way to make music together.
Symphonic Band has been working on one last performance for the year in the form of a compilation video of the song “Beyond the Meadow Green,” composed by George Farmer. Members of the band who chose to participate recorded themselves playing their respective parts of the song, and those individual parts will be edited together into one video of them playing together.
Instead of playing a new song, or one of the songs the band was preparing for their end of the year performances, they decided on “Beyond the Meadow Green,” which they had played at a February concert, because of its familiarity and simplicity. The piece only has eight parts, compared to some of their more complex pieces that can have around 15 different parts.
In a time when most people’s lives have faced dramatic changes, the piece was also chosen because of the mood.
“The composer intends it to be like an old Scotsman reminiscing about old life,” said Nathaniel Dickey, director of Symphonic Band. “It is a sentimental ballad.”
Symphonic Band was scheduled to have two more performances before the end of the year, and in a matter of days, the future the musicians expected was turned upside down. A final performance of any sort serves as a way to recognize the work that each musician put into their music and a source of closure for a year cut short.
“I think a lot of people think it’s about honoring the seniors, and to some extent it is, but honestly I feel like it’s honoring the work we’ve put into the pieces and the work we’ve done this year as a band together,” said Sara Villalobos, a senior baritone saxophone player, and president of Symphonic Band.
Dickey organized the video and is editing the students’ performances together. The idea to make a video of the band playing a song together was suggested by a student, and through Zoom meetings, Dickey and members of the band decided on a song to play and worked out the logistics of the video.
When a band plays together, they tune together and look to the conductor for tempo and pacing while performing a piece. Pacing and pitch were two of the main logistical concerns resulting from having to record individual parts in different locations. To minimize differences in performances, members of the band tuned to the same pitch and based their pace off of a metronome before recording their parts.
Not every member of the band was able to record a part to be edited into the final video due to things like busy schedules, lack of quiet environment and limited access to musical instruments. Some students don’t own the instruments they play on, and instead borrow from Concordia, making it challenging to access an instrument while off campus long term.
Signey Oslund, a junior percussionist, is one student that was not able to record a video for the project because she only has a tambourine and a snare practice pad at home with her, and does not have access to other instruments. While she is a little disappointed that she can’t participate, her main frustration lies in not being able to meet as a band normally.
“Band has always been a big part of my semesters usually. It’s something you go to three times a week, and now you can’t, so that’s pretty disappointing,” she said. “I’m not super crushed about not being part of this project, but I am excited to see how it turns out.”
While Dickey wants to be able to share the video with the greater Concordia community, he is worried that if the final video is posted on a site like YouTube, it could result in a copyright violation. He hopes that by reaching out to the composer and publisher, he will get permission to post a video, but for now, he plans to share the final product with members of the band so they have a way to show their family and friends the results of the work they put into music this year.