NILES Weather plays in pops at ballpark
Musicians are urged to play their instruments outside to prepare for the outdoor concert.
By JOHN PATRICK GATTA
NILES -- Throughout its concert season, the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra performs under the controlled environment in Powers Auditorium.
With the addition of Pops At The Ballpark to their schedule, the musicians must deal with the elements that are normally reserved for the players of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
Through careful planning, technology and a little ingenuity, members adapt to what nature offers them over the course of one summer evening at Cafaro Field.
This year's program will feature works by Henry Mancini, selections from Broadway including "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "My Fair Lady" plus several marches, from Verdi's "Aida," Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (a k a "The Wedding March") and some by John Phillip Sousa. The evening's last piece will be the "1812 Overture," with synchronized fireworks.
The stage is set up on Friday with lighting and sound systems and the orchestra setup taking place the next day. The orchestra uses the players' dressing rooms, where cold refreshments are available to combat the heat.
How they prepare: Stage manager Joe Woronka encourages the musicians to go outside and get themselves and their instruments acclimated to the weather as soon as possible.
"They need to get their instruments tempered to the existing air, and hopefully that will hold," he said.
"It's an outdoor situation, so sometimes you get a front coming through and there's a temperature or humidity change that can affect the tuning of the instrument. Each may have slightly different change."
The orchestra's string section can be particularly affected by such changes. According to violinist June Byo, a 27-year veteran of the symphony, she and her fellow players deal with fewer problems by using synthetic strings rather than the old gut strings.
Besides tuning their instruments with the concert master at the beginning of a program and after intermission, Byo said, the musicians are familiar enough with their instruments to know whether they are out of tune and well-trained enough to adjust them without being heard.
As the symphony's librarian, she acquires the sheet music for a program and distributes it to the other symphony members. For the pops concert, she has clothespins available for the musicians to hold the music in place in case it is windy.
Percussions: Ken Alexander, a percussionist with the symphony for the past 28 years, points out that what he goes through is far less troublesome, but he does have to deal with the clothespins when he moves from one instrument to the next.
For him, the blazing sun can create a problem. "Like any type of sport, it can take a lot out of you. I played a concert at one time where I played the cymbals and they were really hot. Burnt my hand for a second, but it was no big deal."
Still, there are technical matters that come into play. "You have to make adjustments," Alexander said. "When you play in Powers, we're 50 feet from the conductor and 50 feet from the violins. By the time we make our sound and they make their sound, you have to adjust your timing, maybe playing ahead of the beat.
"If you're at the park, with a microphone, it does echo sometimes. So, you have to watch the conductor and play to the beat of the conductor."
He also mentioned that the symphony's people take safety measures, particularly by making plans for another date if the original one must be canceled due to a thunderstorm.