The strings behind the scenes


Helen Heaton

Members of the pit orchestra attend a practice after school in the band room. It takes weeks of hard work for the student musicians to master the difficult music.

Helen Heaton, Oracle Editor

One of the most famous lyrics from “Les Miserables” is the phrase: “Do you hear the people sing?” But without the pit orchestra–the student musicians playing at the foot of the stage–the spring musical would fall silent.

While the pit orchestra is composed of volunteers, their task is not easy. As of now, they rehearse twice a week for about one-and-a-half hours, but they will practice longer and more frequently closer to the show.

Such practice is necessary due to the unique challenges of providing musical accompaniment.

“In regular music, there would be a nice little melody, but since we’re accompanying the singers, there are parts when the key signature will get up to six sharps or six flats,” said freshman Amelia Goetz. “There’s seven-eighths time.”

There are other technical challenges, as well.

“I am in choir and orchestra so I am used to working with other singers,” said junior Julia Hoffman. “But working with actors [and] singers while playing viola is different that playing in normal orchestra because you have to listen and pay attention a lot more to cues and different styles of singing.”

There are logistical challenges, too.

“We have a lot of people this year, which is beyond amazing, but we’re actually going to be splitting the pit between the two show weekends so everyone can play and still physically fit at the bottom of the stage,” said junior Bonnie Vigil.

While it can be difficult, students are drawn to pit orchestra because of the unique opportunities it provides.

“I’ve done pit in the past and I really enjoyed it,” said Hoffman. “I also wanted to do more difficult and different music on the viola through school.”

Vigil was also drawn to the style of music played by the pit orchestra.

“I like musicals [and] I like orchestra, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to merge two of my interests,” she said.

Goetz also found the chance to participate in the musical compelling.

“I’ve been into the show ‘Les Mis’ for a while, and I heard about pit and I was like, ‘Huh, OK, I’ll go to the interest meeting.’ And I got handed a book; I looked through it; I thought, ‘Wow, this is really hard,’” said Goetz. “But it looked fun, so I decided to do it.”