On March 15, members of the Bert Church High School band class shared the stage with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. The students opened the concert and played the first set (first act) for the orchestra.
Corbie Dorner, Musical Director at Bert Church High School, said that the experience was incredible for both himself and his students. Dorner said that initially contacted by the Bert Church Theatre about the possibility of participating in a musical outreach program with the Calgary Philharmonic.
"This is the first time in a long time that they've done something like this up here. I jumped at the chance to do something like that," he said.
Not only did the students share the stage with members of the philharmonic, but they also participated in a series of workshops with the members. Dorner said that being able to work with professionals of the calibre of those at the philharmonic was a unique opportunity.
"They were so generous with their praise of the students and it was really cool to have that, and then to watch the students lean into their performance... They played great themselves. It was very, very inspiring."
While there are some who might envision a night at the philharmonic as a homage to classical composers such as Bach, Chopin, Beethoven or even Mozart, Dorner explained that it's not always about old men in white wigs. In fact, the theme of the concert on March 15, was quite contemporary: superheroes. Among some of the pieces that Dorner chose was Danse Bohémien by Randall Standridge.
"[When] kids come into a concert band, they assume they're not going to get to play any fun music, but there's lots of fun music. We do get to play classics, but there are some great contemporary artists too. [Danse Bohémien] that was just very upbeat. It's a dance, but a sort of can-can dance. Other songs included highlights from the Guardians of the Galaxy."
The band also played the ever-recognizable Star Wars Marches and as well as a piece titled, Portrait of Terry Fox by the late Quan H. Le. But apart from the upbeat and contemporary music, there was also an incredible moment that occurred during the concert. A Grade 11 student, took Dorner's place to lead the band.
"I went and played percussion and he came out and conducted the band and some of the audience which was really cool," he said. "The single most emotional moment was at the end of [a musical piece titled] Every Winter's Breath when the student conducting the band cut off the band and he kind of cheered at them. The smile on his face, the applause from the audience and from the band for him; the appreciation for their fellow student."
However, Dorner did admit that when he initially told the students the news, there were worry and nerves that reverberated throughout the class. Despite their worries and anxiousness, the students dazzled not only the crowd but the professional musicians during the concert.
"It was rewarding for me to see them have grown so far and to come through so much. We only started doing live concerts here again last spring," Dorner explained. "After COVID happened... to be able to do that and to go from playing in a room with our coats on because we had to keep a door open to performing on a stage with members of the Calgary Philharmonic... that is just a huge thing."
When asked where his musical aspirations and inspiration came from, Dorner said that it goes all the way back to when he was in elementary school and a teacher by the name of Arland Mangold ignited his passion.
"He passed away in 2017, but I think of him every time I'm out there."
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