Reflections from a Philadelphia Sinfonia Student

By Erik Petersons on March 16, 2020

Over the past several years, the Chamber Music Society has brought a variety of artists to work with Philadelphia Sinfonia musicians. This past fall, when the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) performed on our series, they took time on Saturday to coach the Sinfonia's advanced chamber orchestra. Afterwards, Adah Kaplan, an eighth grader who holds the Principal Chair of the Second Violins, wrote a first-hand account of the event.

High Energy and Musicianship
by Adah Kaplan

Philadelphia Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra (PSCO) musicians were freed from the confinements of reserved playing by the East Coast Chamber Orchestra (ECCO) this past October during a side by side event. The guest ensemble’s defining trait is that they play without a conductor, resulting in impeccable individual leadership and listening abilities. The rehearsal ran without a conductor, meaning that Sinfonia musicians needed to develop these skills as well.

With a major piece in the PSCO repertoire, the Holst St. Paul Suite, the joint rehearsal began with each section rehearsing separately in sectionals with ECCO coaches before all the sections came together to demonstrate what they had learned in a play-through of the entire suite.

Preceding the event, the Sinfonia chamber orchestra members were told about the energy levels of ECCO. Though the Sinfonia musicians did not take this lightheartedly, none of the second violins were expecting to put down their instruments and physically play follow the leader in their sectional!

ECCO felt that we needed more cohesiveness as a section and needed to learn how to follow one another. By learning how to follow one another without instruments, we learned how to follow each other while playing. There is a common misconception that everyone in the section follows the leader of the section, which is only partially true. In reality, for a section to be truly together with phrasing and timing, everyone must contribute equally.

In rehearsal the following week, the PSCO musicians debriefed the event, commenting on what they had learned from ECCO. Players mentioned ECCO’s immense energy, consistency in phrasing, and their movement while playing.

Being a musician in the Sinfonia chamber orchestra myself, I found that ECCO had unique ideas for the suite’s phrasing that I look forward to toying with. What surprised me was how confident the players were with their interpretations—every time they played a passage the phrasing was done in the exact same way, proving how much experience they had. ECCO pushed our loud playing past our current boundaries, creating a surge of powerful sound.

ECCO is a group founded by colleagues searching for an ensemble devoted primarily to the joy of playing music. Though the path of music as a career is a treacherous one, the joy of playing was clearly evident in the musicians from ECCO, and the Philadelphia Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra and Maestro White thank them greatly for their instruction at this side-by-side event.

Read more by Adah Kaplan on her blog, Key of Adah.

(Photo Credits: Steven Goldblatt)