2014 Symphony Workshop

Holst : The Planets

Hutt Valley High School. Lower Hutt
Friday to Sunday, 5th - 7th September

Orchestral director: Brent Stewart


This was the year of the planets. Just seven of them. Earth is not a planet, it is the centre of the universe. And Pluto is not a planet, not because of it being a planetoid, but because it had yet to be discovered when Holst wrote "The Planets" between 1914 and 1916. The symbolism is an evocation of the traditional impact the planets are supposed to have on the psyche. 

The Planets is a wonderful and evocative suite of movements. Their popularity resulted in 85 registrants this year. Brass was particularly strong, with seven horns on the left all the way across the rear to tubas on the right.

Photos from the weekend.

HVHS end of weekendHutt Valley High School.

The car is parked against the Student Centre (Tea breaks and also brass sectionals)

Centre distant is the main hall, plus ajacent rooms. Harp and cello sectionals, plus tutti and the final concert.

The school is not all that far from the centre of Lower Hutt, so people could walk there at lunch time if they wished. It is a good central venue.

The photos below are of sections, but taken during tutti play in the main hall. Not shown are members of Cantala.  The choir is scored to be off-stage (behind the black curtain) where they sang in the opening Neptune before departing invisibly to another concert 20 km away. This altered the movement order in the final concert, with 'Mystic' Neptune first rather than as a final last fading out of an eerie women's chorus.  Photos were taken either by the webmaster or by Grant von Brass.

Heavy artillery

One of the favourite pieces is Mars which traditionally opens the suite. It is massive and foreboding, but actually written first in ignorance of World War 1 looming. It is a piece that attracts the heavy artillery -  big brass and large drums.

It is nice to have a movement that allows under-utilized instruments a chance to be centre stage.

Horns opened the next movement - Venus.

Seven horns make a strong statement.

The photos below are of various sections of the orchestra.

FluteDouble bass and cello


Violin_1Violins 2

As always the weekend provided a wonderful opportunity for intensive orchestral playing. We were particularly pleased by the increase in younger players, who had free registration due to support from the Bear Trust. Audience and players alike enjoyed Sunday's performance leading to this final bow from our dynamic musical director Brent Stewart.
Soup kitchen
Nor should we ignore an important aspect of the week-end, chatting over soup or coffee or whatever.

A particular highlight was pizza Saturday evening followed by a musical quiz set by John Toon (percussion). The second half was trying to guess what composer had uttered or alternately been the victim of a cutting insult. Even if the answer was impossible to guess, it is fun trying to match knowlege of composers to rancour. Wagner came into many of the questions, either as suspect or victim (.. is better than he sounds)
Our thanks to support from the Winton and Margaret Bear Trust.  [ Top ]