This story is part of our #FandMArts series documenting how the campus community continues to bring the arts to life in a virtual setting.
The Franklin & Marshall College community was treated to the sounds of Dvorak, Haydn, and alumni composers during the virtual Nov. 18 Common Hour featuring the F&M Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Ensemble.
The event featured music recorded on campus and remotely under the virtual direction of Brian Norcross, senior director of instrumental music and conducting studies. Musicians were divided into small “pods” of roughly 10 performers each, with 11 pods on campus and two remote pods.
The orchestra is generally comprised of 80 musicians; the wind ensemble tallies 50. Each pod was named after a street surrounding campus or Lancaster City.
“Our pods have really unique instrumentation. There’s virtually no music available for the instrumentation we have for these pods,” Norcross said.
Students first experimented with aleatoric – or open form – music, but Norcross ultimately decided that each pod required specific arrangements.
“I commissioned some of our alumni composers and friends of the College to write fanfares for F&M and have students record them,” Norcross said.
“This semester, the F&M instrumental performing groups have premiered 34 new pieces. That is a significant contribution to the music repertoire,” he added.
Alumni compositions featured during Common Hour included “Fanfare for the Return” by Yifeng Darin Xie ’22; “Call to Arms” by Kristen Lee Rosenfeld ’02; and “Reduced Travels” by Andrew Glennan ’13. “Heroic Henjal Mariacki Fanfare” was composed by Julia Adams, visiting assistant professor of music. Norcross premiered his own arrangement of George Warren’s “National Hymn.”
On-campus musicians rehearsed in-person once a week for 30 minutes – a significant reduction from customary semiweekly, 90-minute rehearsals. Remote musicians recorded their instrumental parts independently, aided by click track audio cues.
Students at F&M are not required to major in music to perform or conduct.
“They are determined; they are dedicated; they are showing the best of what Franklin and Marshall is and can be,” Norcross said.
The Common Hour concert concluded with an impressive assemblage of nearly 80 musicians virtually performing Leroy Anderson’s holiday classic, “Sleigh Ride.”