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Behind the Scenes of Hot Mikado – The Pit Orchestra

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With the first week of March fast approaching, the preparations for BCA’s annual musical are beginning to intensify. And while most everyone considers the rehearsal time, memorizing of lines and music, and costume coordination done by the actors, many overlook the hard work behind one of the show’s most important components: the music! In line with BCA tradition, live music for the musical is provide by none other than the students – members of the pit orchestra.

Upon completing the school’s audition (required of every student involved in a music course) and receiving higher than the established minimum score, selected pit members participate in a two-trimester in which they familiarize themselves with and practice the show’s tracks. Just imagine – they begin preparing for March’s show in September!

An orchestral pit, even for a Broadway production, consists of very few members; more often than not, instrumentalists will double up on an additional instrument, for example having a clarinetist also play flute, to reduce the size of the group. While this is initially challenging due to the added focus members have to pay to come in on time and with the correct notes, the end result becomes satisfying.

Minsung Cho, a clarinetist doubling on bass clarinet in the production, says that: “this year’s music is especially difficult… and learning it on bass clarinet was even harder! Fast switches aren’t easy; you have to really know the music to do them well. It’s a huge pressure to get everything right.”

BCA’s pit usually consists of no more than fifteen members, including a string, wind, and rhythm section. Depending on the demand of the show, different instruments must be employed.

With Hot Mikado, the instrumental requirements are unique because, unlike last year’s Evita, which had mostly traditional influences, songs from Hot Mikado are all based on jazz music. Jazz is fundamentally different from classical composition not only in instrumentation; often, it requires the musicians to improvise solos and riffs, and in exposed moments, too. For returning members, the transition adds an additional challenge. Jazz isn’t easy!

Unlike the physical, under-the-stage pit the productions usually use, this year’s smaller orchestra will be situated on the stage with the actors. This change is completely new to the pit; being on stage forces members to present both an audible and visible art.

“I’ve been here a long time,” says conductor, Mr. Lemma, “and this is a first for me! I’ve never been on stage before!”

With the orchestra (which can really no longer be considered a pit orchestra) on stage, the audience will have a better understanding of what it means to have live music provided by students and, hopefully, a greater appreciation of the effort that they put into the production. Sharing the spotlight in Hot Mikado, the pit will get its chance to shine. No one will be wondering where the music is coming from, they’ll know: the hard work of the instrumentalists!

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Behind the Scenes of Hot Mikado – The Pit Orchestra