Survey Says…..

I can’t really say a big enough thank you to everyone who weighed in with their ideas on the program order for my upcoming Helix Ensemble concert.

I had my first rehearsal with the band yesterday, and talked to the orchestra about about the issue, and interestingly, a couple of issues came up that didn’t in all the comments so far. First of all, the orchestra has arranged for Philip to speak to the audience and had hoped for him to be able to meet audience members at the intermission after they’d heard his piece.

Secondly, I was reminded as I walked in the door that the horn parts to the Haydn are in C alto, which means the guys are up in dog-whistle range for most of the piece. They weren’t so sure they wanted to do it last on the program, lest they be too tired. On the other hand, they weren’t so sure they wanted to do it first on the program as they might not be loosened up. Doing it in the middle was possibly not good either, as the pieces on either side might suffer. Basically, horn players don’t like playing that high at any point in a concert.

Well, the guys foolishly played really, really well, so we were able to entrust that they’d cope with whatever we chose to do. Philip’s piece is the shortest, so can’t fill a half by itself, and two pieces plus a chat is too long for a half. The Haydn is also the most demanding on the audience- there is a bit of mischief in every other bar. It should really go last, as the most modern work we’re doing.

So, we finally decided on

Beethoven- Symphony no. 4

Introduction to Sym no. 2 with Philip Sawyers, orchestra demonstrations


Sawyers- Symphony no. 2

Haydn- Symphony no 60, It Distratto

IIt’s going to be a great show. The Haydn is pure genius from beginning to end- certainly the wittiest piece of music ever written, but also astoundingly beautiful in places. People won’t know what hit them.

We read Philip’s piece straight through- it has a real sense of arc to it. It’s incredibly dense contrapuntally, so most of the rehearsal was a matter of sorting out the shaping of the individual lines and clarifying some balances. Great stuff, and powerful. A real symphony.

The Beethoven’s not a bad piece, either….

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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