The Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra

Jessica Lee finishes with a flourish.

Widely acclaimed concert violinist Jessica Lee finishes a passage with a flourish. She was playing the Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor Opus 26, by Max Bruch, a haunting and emotional composition for violin and orchestra. Her performance was flawless and the audience let her know it in a big way.

The Pine Bluff Symphony of Pine Bluff, Arkansas kicked off its 2010-11 season with a concert celebrating the German musical heritage. After a soul-stirring rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the orchestra got down to business with the Overture from Music for the Royal Fireworks by George Fredric Handel of Messiah fame. Before we venture further, this epistle had its beginnings on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to go there. See more pictures and read more revelations regarding these fine music makers.

The first chair violaist in the Pine Bluff Symphony

The first chair violist in the Pine Bluff Symphony casts a glance at conductor Charles Evans, something she is "supposed to do." Symphony musicians need four eyes and an extra hand or two. They have to watch the conductor, read the music, play their instruments and turn pages. If that sounds confusing, it is. These people are the original multi-taskers.

Most of the 65 or so musicians comprising the orchestra hail from Arkansas, with a few arriving from surrounding states. Most of these performers are professional musicians in that they accept good Yankee green for their services on a regular basis, including this performance and other Pine Bluff Symphony concerts. A number of these make their living as full-time musicians, still more have day jobs, and then there are those, who, while accepting pay for their services, would probably do it for free because they love it so much.

Oboe reed knife

Most serious oboists make their own reeds for their instrument mouthpiece. This oboist brought the whole kit and kaboodle to make and/or repair reeds on the spot. It appears from the white specs that some reed work has been recently done. I have no explanation for the additional appurtenances. The felt-lined tray clamped to the music stand is a nice touch.

Now in it’s twenty-fourth year, the symphony operates efficiently with a two person full-time staff, Bill Fox and his lovely bride Cheryl. The organization thrives on dedicated volunteers and a board of directors who take their jobs seriously. As a result, the orchestra continues to thrive in a town of about 50,000 or so souls. Someone forgot to tell these stalwart folks that the town is too small for a symphony orchestra. Or if someone did tell them, they did not listen.

woodwind section

A tympanist, a couple of clarinetists, and bassoonists and their respective "axes." I have always heard that the bassoon is one of the most difficult instruments to play. Think about it, a long wooden pipe with valves and a reed mouthpiece smaller than a respectable wad of bubble gum. And it is supposed to make music. You gotta admire the bassoonists.

It’s not often that an entire symphony orchestra plays for you during the entire shoot. Such luck. But then it is always substantially better to be lucky than good any day of the week.


Every week, we shoot more than we have room for on Corndancer Photo of  the Week and Weekly Grist, sooooooo, we post those pictures along with the ones we did run on a larger, hi-res picture only gallery. Click here to go there and see what you won’t see any where else.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

One Response

  1. I know people who love playing in orchestra … especially the non-string instruments because they would be one of a few – thus can’t rely on others.

    This post was also a first as I can’t recall ever reading “kit and koboodle” in a blog.

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