The Harrisburg Choral Society's focus is on the performance of large works from the literature. As many of these great works are accompanied by orchestra, and the HCS works very hard to ensure a faithful performance, we hire an orchestra for our concerts.
But we are also a non-profit arts organization in this current time of fewer and fewer monetary resources. So, that means our orchestra must conform to two constraints: first, it can only be as large as is necessary to put on a good sounding concert, and second, it can only rehearse once as an ensemble before the performance.
Dr. Baker, the HCS music director, is the person we rely upon to select our orchestra. He also spends effort to keep our orchestra costs under budget. Many times this is simply not hiring parts, but other times it requires shifting parts from player to player, or covering parts with keyboards. The Choral Society has been fortunate to keep to our realistic budgets while still presenting a top-caliber instrumental ensemble.
The other constraint, a single dress rehearsal, is also difficult to manage. We have over the last few years built a "stable" of go-to professionals who have worked together, and are able to mesh on a short time frame. Dr. Baker also manages this limited time well, making sure the performers get their music well in advance, and communicating with the players to make sure performance notes are relayed. Our accompanist Victor Fields also provides a foundation for the chorus, presenting the often complex orchestral arrangement in a piano reduction in our weekly rehearsals. And when the works also feature a soloist, there is yet another element that is missed during regular rehearsals and only manageable at the dress rehearsal.
But all of the preparation must come together in a single evening, when the HCS, the soloists, the orchestra, and the conductor have to prepare an evening's concert, with the participants rehearsing together for the first time.
The video here is a glimpse into one of our full dress rehearsals. It focuses on Dr. Baker, and the ebb and flow of rehearsals, moving between the soloists, the orchestra, and the chorus to get all of us on the same page. It is an intriguing look into the world of the conductor when he's NOT in a tux in front of the audience!