By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
A cool breeze carried a touch of pine aroma and the sounds of classical music to approximately 150 people Sunday at Stillwater’s Ingham Park in the Westwood neighborhood.
The Stillwater High School string orchestra braved fall cold snap to perform an outdoor concert at the park. Temperatures hovered in the low 50s during the hourlong performance.
Orchestra Director Scott Jackson told audience members they could walk around and talk quietly to their neighbors, especially if they noticed something unusual like the orchestra member who quickly retuned in the middle of the first selection.
The free concert was the brainchild of the Westwood Neighborhood Association. Donations were collected to help finance the orchestra’s March 21-26 trip to a competition at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall. Forty-four orchestra members hope to make the trip, Jackson said.
The orchestra director praised the Westwood Neighborhood Association for developing and promoting the concert in the park.
“Their support for us is a sign of how wonderful our community is. The donations for the Chicago trip is just icing on the cake,” he said.
The Stillwater High orchestra will compete against others at the Chicago competition before everyone united for a massive concert, he said.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the kids to make music and get a sense of how we’re doing,” he said.
Violinist Nikhil Kamath started playing in the school orchestra in the sixth grade. “I’ve been playing the violin for 10 years now.
The Chicago trip means a lot to the orchestra and Kamath. “It will be my first trip out of the state. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Sunday, the orchestra repeated some selections from its Sept. 20 concert at the Stillwater High Performing Arts Center and mixed in some new ones.
The orchestra usually spends weeks preparing pieces for concerts. The quick turnaround made Sunday’s performance special, orchestra member Morgan Carter said.
“It was interesting to learn them in such a short time. We usually have longer,” Carter said.
Getting the tempo correct, he said, was the biggest challenge as the orchestra prepared for the performance.
The October chill proved to be the biggest hurdle on Sunday.
“Getting used to the cold was an interesting experience,” member Mukund Komanduri said.
Member Joe Lee said, “It made me feel like a man being out in the cold.”
Westwood Neighborhood Association member Nancy Beckstrom helped organize Sunday’s event.
Association members guided parking around the park and worked with the city’s park and recreation department to ensure the performance went off smoothly.
Neighborhood parks provide a perfect venue for the performance arts, she said. Concerts and one-act plays unite residents.
“I hope we’ve started something,” she said. “We need to use our parks. I’d like to see jazz in the parks.”