The Stories Behind the Songs: Sinfonietta

Maeve Goldman, Contributing Writer

Gone will be the brightly lit stage of Gross Theater, cluttered with students in black dress clothes clutching their instruments: this year, Sinfonietta’s virtual performance “Lyric For Strings” by George Walker, reflects the root of the global situation. “Sinfonietta is presenting the more solemn side of the pandemic,” Orchestra Director Nathan Hetherington said. 

The piece featured in the concert was specifically chosen through a vote by the members of Sinfonietta, who chose from multiple pieces that the ensemble experimented with at the beginning of the school year, Hetherington said. He initially chose the piece not just for its musical quality, but because of the message it conveys about the seriousness of the virus. “It’s a slowish piece. It’s very beautiful. It’s a little bit sad, and it’s very expressive,” he said.

Hetherington also wanted this concert to feature the work of musicians of color in the primarily white space of orchestral music. The piece’s composer George Walker was the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize. “Classical concerts are 99% white dudes, so we are trying to find ways to mix that up, trying to get different voices heard and to hear them ourselves too,” he said. 

The dynamics of Sinfonietta are always important to the group because of its small size, and despite the concert’s virtual nature, the ensemble has been able to develop a strong sense of identity, Hetherington said.