Friday, January 30, 2015
By Jed Gottlieb
With 63 years of experience, violinist Judith Takata can’t be called a beginner, novice or neophyte. The labels don’t fit Kushi Sellahennedige, either, who took up the instrument at age 10. Tomorrow, Symphony Hall will be full of such talented musicians, and yet no one in the orchestra will qualify as a professional. More than 100 skilled amateur Massachusetts musicians will take the stage to perform at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s education and community engagement department’s first “Onstage at Symphony” event.
“Last month, I took a free tour of Symphony Hall, and they let us go anywhere in the hall but onstage.” Takata, 73, said. “Now I get to sit on that stage, to play on a stage I’ve admired for so long.”
The BSO selected the ad hoc ensemble of locals for the one-time performance through a lottery system. Presumably every applicant has chops — both Takata and Sellahennedige considered careers in music following high school graduation — but there could be wide gaps between the top and bottom players.
“I don’t know what to expect,” said Sellahennedige, who works as a mechanical engineer. “At least for a few minutes, we’ll be a whole group of strangers, strangers with very different backgrounds and skills.”
BSO’s Youth and Family Concerts conductor Thomas Wilkins, who will spend the next 24 hours whipping the group into shape, has never led an ensemble like this, but he’s not worried. He says the experience won’t be much different than putting a professional orchestra together for the first time.
“I just did a set of concerts in Barbados with members of the Met, the BSO and other orchestras, and most of the musicians had never played together, but it worked,” Wilkins said. “Granted, the musicians were on another level from the community orchestra we put together. But they’re always at different levels. You get average players and unbelievable players in any group.”