Last week, around 200 people gathered in the lovely Morningside Baptist Church in Pittsfield to hear all three Kids 4 Harmony ensembles play. With light pouring in from the elaborate stained glass windows, the setting was perfect for 43 children to perform works by Bartok, Beethoven, Mahler and two different Bachs, as well as classic folk tunes such as Day-O!
Here is a breakdown:
The concert started off with the Intermediate Ensemble, which consists of 18 children from grades one through six. Most of them have been playing under a year. In the first piece, a Beethoven bagatelle transcribed for strings, the kids demonstrated strong, passionate playing, including dynamics and careful bowing. For anyone who saw these kids begin in September with songs like Hot Cross Buns and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, their playing now has come quite a ways.
Next up was the Beginning Ensemble, with 11 kindergarteners and one first grader. What was most touching was how much fun they were having. They showed off their sense of rhythm, playing along to Day-O on their violins, dancing, and smiling. Joy is an amazing motivator, and we can look forward to these children becoming incredible musicians themselves.
When people are enjoying themselves, amazing things happen. Alicia Stevenson, the Artistic Director, led all 43 children in a huge song and drumming routine, and the joy reverberated around the chapel. One could not help but feel that these children are Pittsfield's greatest ambassadors; young lives that will reach out and achieve greatness.
In the second half of the concert, the student string quartet played two pieces. These four children promised success to the rest of the group. They played their difficult music with precision and focus, and a subtle satisfaction. For three of the four, this would be their last performance as Kids 4 Harmony students; they will graduate 5th grade, and return for the summer program as mentors.
The children and audience then got to hear a string trio comprised of faculty from the Berkshire Music School play Pachelbel's Cannon. Not many children get to hear professional performances; the students were understandably riveted by the performance.
Finally, the Advanced Ensemble played three numbers, including arrangements of symphonies by Brahms and Mahler.
It's one thing to read about the concert, and another thing to hear and see it. The most impressive thing, though, is to experience it, every day. For example, the twelve players in the Advanced Ensemble are made up of children grades two through six. Some of the children have been playing the shortest of any in the program - less than six months. Others have been with us since January of 2012. All of them play music written for players several years older than they are.
At the end, the children got thunderous applause and warm smiles. Family and friends poured in to offer congratulations and bouquets. The Berkshire Music School Trio, qualified teachers, expressed their amazement at the skill of the kids.
This concert was important for our kids. The students of Kids 4 Harmony work five afternoons a week with rarely any breaks. These rehearsals need focused attention and energy. Practicing an instrument for hours is mentally and physically exhausting; add this on to their schoolwork and homework. It's hard to imagine how hard they're working! Yet in the midst of this intensive practice, they are finding their own discipline, peace and joy.
People so wise as to enjoy their work should be celebrated. This concert did just that. Playing stringed instruments is one of the hardest disciplines in the world, and one by one, the students of Kids 4 Harmony prove that they are up to the challenge.