Sightreading Orchestra

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    David Ice

    Hi everybody!

    We’ve got what might be a unique group here in Phoenix and I was wondering if anybody else has a summer Sightreading Orchestra anywhere.

    What it is is a group of amateur and professional musicians who get together, no pay, and just read through literature.


    I’ve never heard of anything like that here on Long Island, but it does sound like fun.

    David Ice

    That’s the idea exactly…..we laugh a lot, and sometimes the music IS amazing!


    In my student days I played in a group like that. It *was* fun. I played the bass parts to all the Beethoven symphonies, just so I wouldn’t be sitting there doing nothng.

    I think there used to be far, far more groups like this (as I recall there were a couple others even in culturally benighted Miami back then), before the idea that you have to monetize every breath you take became so prevalent.


    I have never seen anything like that, but it sounds like a wonderful learning experience and lots of fun. A great opportunity and wonderful that you are taking advantage of it.

    This should be more common. In fact in the current print issue of The Harp Column in the interview with Skaila Kanga she makes a point of how new harp students at the Royal Academy of Music typically lack the same ensemble experience that most of the other students have due to lack of opportunity for it, and that they make a focused effort to get the harp students up to speed in that area.

    This seems like the perfect kind of first step for a student for getting that kind of experience and would be great to see more of.


    I played in summer groups for years on viola and various members of the clarinet family, and it was GREAT. I can still remember the joys of taking a big breath to start a phrase and realizing that you had sucked in some sort of bug. I had one terrific summer many years ago when I played in a summer wind ensemble directed by Keith Brion, who does the Sousa recreations. One of the pieces we played was “Lincolnshire Posy” by Percy Grainger, an all time favorite of mine, and the only time I ever got to play it.

    Recalling those experiences gives me even more respect for sight reading harp music. I would always write in fingerings/position shifts in viola parts, and just the thought of having to make split second decisions about fingerings and pedal changes simultaneously is mind boggling.

    I think there is a summer symphony somewhere in Essex County NJ, or was one recently. I never went to a rehearsal with them though, just read about it.


    One of the reasons I think I enjoy orchestral playing with good players but without the pressure of an audience there is little urge to play ‘safe’ and the risks usually do come off really well.

    Mel Sandberg

    Sounds like fun to me too, but boy, I hope I don’t ever have to sightread Sheherazade like this, even though I’ve played in it before, and know it from learning it well once.


    Philadelphia has one, the Orchestral Society, which has a rehearsal once a week and occasionally performs.

    David Ice

    I’m really glad to hear that, Saul!


    What a great idea to do on a large scale. Back in Atlanta, I once subbed in a friend’s string quartet that met once a month to read through a quartet and eat a home-cooked dinner at someone’s home. It was so much fun I was sad their violist was out of town only one week.

    Hmmm, looks like a DC area chamber music group does something similar. I bet I know somebody who plays with them I could ask about it.

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