Monday, September 22, 2014
I went to a rehearsal at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Center for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Music Director Alondra de la Parra was conducting. I sat a few rows back from the stage and started sketching. As the orchestra warmed up with the usual cacophony of unrelated instrumentation, I blocked in the stage and seating arrangement. Since Conductor Christopher Wilkins left, the orchestra has been looking for a new conductor. Apparently it is a buyers market since so many orchestras have had to fold or cut back after the financial crisis in 2008. Ten people make up the selection panel. Half of the panel are musicians from the Orchestra and half are civilians. There were many applicants for the conductor's position. If any one person on the selection committee voted no, then that conductor was removed from the list. Five conductors remain after that process.
Alondra is in her 30's and brought an undeniable energy to the rehearsal. The first piece rehearsed was Symphony Number 1 by Gustav Mahler. The music moved along lyrically and then built in energy and drive. There were moments of absolute magic that could lift you up to defy gravity. Because it was a rehearsal, there were moments where the music stopped and Allondra asked a single section of the orchestra to perform their part and she helped them become more unified or crisp in their parts. "It's all about placement and color." she said. She could have been talking about a sketch.
The next piece was Danzon Number 2 by Arturo Manquez from her native Mexico. At times the music was brash with a high spirited exuberance. My foot was tapping to the off beat and I couldn't stop my body from moving to the beat. This had to be the first time I felt like I should get up and dance in the isles as the orchestra performed. "Keep it fresh and spirited." Alondra said. Then suddenly much of the orchestra grew quiet as a core group of players performed with a slow authority. She explained that these were the old timers who knew how to keep a performance simple and real. When the piece was over, Alondra complimented the soloist saying, "Great solo, you may not know it, but you are part Cuban." She brought an amazing new energy to the orchestra and Orlando would be lucky to have her if she is selected as the new Music Director. She has a few commitments with an orchestra in Mexico and Japan, but hopefully that wouldn't interfere if she were to be selected as the orchestra's new Music Director. Each of the four other finalists will be featured conductors in the coming months. I hope to watch to see what each brings to the table.