New venue hosts first outdoor concert

Audra Gamble

The Grand Valley State University Symphony Orchestra will be performing its first concert of the
year Sept. 13 at 12:15 p.m. However, this concert will not be a typical orchestral performance. The
69-member orchestra will perform on the steps of the north side of the Mary Idema Pew Library—
an outdoor amphitheater.

“It is exciting to be able to try something new by playing outdoors,” viola player Joseph Harmsen

Since the addition to the Allendale Campus, Henry Duitman, director of the ensemble, has wanted
to hold a concert in the new space.

“I wanted to do a ‘pops’ concert ever since I’ve been here for the last five years, but there’s no
other place, so since they put in that amphitheater, we’re doing it outside in that amphitheater,”
Duitman said.

Not only will this concert be in an unusual venue, but the program selection is music composed
solely by John Williams. The orchestra will be playing music from “Harry Potter,” “The Patriot,”
“Superman,” “Jurassic Park,” “Star Wars” and more.

There will not be any Bach, Hayden, Mozart or other traditional symphonic music.

“While I love playing classical symphonic repertoire, it is nice to play something less serious once in
a while for variety,” Harmsen said.

As the concert is more informal than a regular concert, some of the orchestra members will be
dressed up as characters from the movies being featured.

“A lot of the students are dressing up for the music they’re playing,” Duitman said. “We’ll have
Harry Potter and Superman and probably a Darth Vader or two and so on,”

As with any new venue, performing outside will present some unique challenges to the orchestra.

“We’re going to try to amplify the strings a little bit, because outside their sound won’t carry like
the brass,” Duitman said. “There will be a few microphones for (them).”

Of course, weather is an important factor, as well. Currently, it appears the weather will cooperate
with the orchestra’s plans as it is expected to be 64 degrees with a zero chance of rain.

The amount of time the students had to prepare for the concert is much shorter than for a typical
concert. Normally they would rehearse the music 10 to 14 times, but for this performance, they
only had five rehearsals. The shortened timeframe doesn’t bother the performers, though.

“I appreciate the accelerated pace,” musician Krista Visnovsky said. “For one, the music has a
smaller chance of becoming stale to the musicians. More importantly, it causes the student
performers to experience a pace closer to that of a professional symphony. No professional
symphony spends weeks on one concert’s worth of repertoire; they typically rehearse and perform
one or more concert’s worth of music per week.”

Duitman hopes for GVSU students to experience the concert and enjoy the outdoor music.

“I think it goes right along with the library’s mission, and that is to really bring students in, to
communicate with each other, to enjoy things,” he said. “It’s during lunch hour, so hopefully they
can bring their food and sit on the steps and listen to some music. It’s only about a half hour. We’re
looking forward to it.”

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