Edwin Drood’s Mysterious Musicians, Straight Out of the Pit

Pit orchestra rehearsal with Mr. Isecke, one of the conductors of the musical

The Mystery of Edwin Drood has come and gone, and with it, a lot of after-school rehearsals.   Simultaneously, marvelous student musicians part of the pit orchestra practiced during and after school hours to accompany the school’s musical.

BCA Pit orchestra is composed of exceptional musicians with addition of professional non-student musicians for further support led by two conductors– Mr. Lemma, director of BCA music department and Mr. Isecke, band conductor and teacher in computer science. For the past 18 years, pit orchestra used to be a trimester 1 and trimester 2 project; however, this year, new change was made in the schedule due to interference of guidance seminars and absence of seniors at internships on Wednesday’s. Pit orchestra has now become a Monday through Friday elective with the exception of Wednesday. This new scheduling allowed more students to participate, especially the seniors who are very energetic in bringing the pit orchestra in unity.

I had a chance to sit down with the conductor Mr. Lemma and a couple of avid student musicians this past week.

AC: What are some responsibilities as a conductor of pit orchestra in musical production?

 Mr. Lemma: So I’m going to give some bullet points so we can expand on that more:

  • Working with the director from musical point of view
  • Seating the student in terms of instrumentation such as two flutes, one French horn, etc.
  • Hiring professionals to fill in gaps
  • Scheduling (sports interference, limited time to master 25 pieces, adapting to the new changed schedule for Pit)
  • Getting the parts ready in sheet music
  • Going back to the director and working with him for editing music such as cuts
  • Lastly, being with the Pit in the show and run the show!

AC: What is so special about a live pit orchestra compared to pre-recorded music tapes?

Mr. Lemma: You’d be surprised even night after night in the live performances; small, intricate changes are done as the show evolves. Adjustments are needed from the beginning of the rehearsal, tech. week, and opening night when there’s more energy and everyone is excited, compared to Saturday morning when kids are wiped out ha-ha. If you’re playing a vamp- one or two measures of music in repetition- while actors are getting ready, sometimes they can take longer time so adjusting that vamp from four times to eight times is necessary. So team work is really the ultimate machine that backs up actors on stage.

AC: How do you feel about that fact that your performances are actually going to be in a pit, rather than a stage?

Mr. Lemma: I love it. We have our own world down there. I kind of like it because it gives a sense of togetherness and unity; so during a show, we get a little silly because we’re down there for hours and hours; but during long pauses of music, we can actually take a big breath and just sit back for a second. That’s actually pretty nice.

In addition to interview with Mr. Lemma, an interview with two BCA seniors- Minsung Cho (AMST 2018, Clarinet) and Juhyun Lee (AVPA-M 2018, Violin)- was done to hear their voices.

AC: How long have you been involved with Pit orchestra?

Cho: For every year except my sophomore year—I wish I played clarinet in BCA’s production of Evita that year!

Lee: Freshmen year and senior year. I’m happy that I can take it during my senior year due to the new schedule adjustment.

AC: Can you explain briefly what kind of efforts you put in for musical production? Any challenges?

Cho: I’m a clarinetist in the orchestra and the main challenge would definitely be working with the cast and the crew so all dance moves & vocal cues line up with our music. We have had multiple after-school events called Sitzprobes where the entire cast and orchestra meet and sort out inconsistences.

Lee: I’m the principal violinist and I am in charge of tuning the orchestra. The main challenge is balancing the sounds of different instruments, and also maintaining a good relationship between the conductor and the members of the orchestra.

AC: How do you feel about the fact that your performances are actually going to be in a pit, rather than a stage?

Cho: I have never really thought about it, but as long as the music gets to the audience, it doesn’t really matter, right?

Lee: I feel like we are more special even though the audience would never see how we play, the musical cannot be run without the music that we produce. Also, I can concentrate more on my sound.

AC: Any further hopes/wishes for the opening night?

Cho: I hope that my fellow senior musicians and actors can end our final production as the best production at BCA.

Lee: I hope that our pit orchestra members can show a great production of The Mystery of Edwin Drood! I am looking forward to spending hours and hours of rehearsal during tech week, ha-ha. I especially wish that my fellow seniors would remember this amazing experience that we were able to have in the pit orchestra even after we graduate.

Overall, it is clear that participating in the Pit orchestra is rewarding, but a big commitment!  If you would like to join, reach out to Mr. Lemma or Mr. Isecke.