Salt Lake Magazine – Meet the New Guy at The Utah Symphony
by Jen Hill
Listening to the Utah Symphony Orchestra from a seat in Abravanel Hall is one thing. Listening to the Utah Symphony Orchestra from the stage is another. Salt Lake magazine sent writer Jen Hill to sit on stage while the orchestra rehearsed Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” Yes, that’s the one where the score calls for live cannons. But no writers were harmed in the research for this article: Hill wore earplugs and a kind horn player suggested she also use a plastic acoustic shield like many orchestra members use.
Seated next to Second Bassoon, Jennifer Rhodes, Hill had the chance, not only to hear, but to observe: “I watched as musicians would stop to meticulously adjust their chairs or obsessively clear out the spit in their instruments. I kept watching all the non-verbal signals that would travel around the stage, a grimace from Conductor Conner Gray Covington after a misstep, a smile for the strings hitting their cue, rolled eyes above a clarinet at missed notes, nods and head shakes, winks and foot taps. It all added up to a complicated camaraderie among the musicians and between them all and the conductor.”
Hill was also able to appreciate Covington’s main role. From the back of Abravanel it may just look like he’s waving his arms around; to the orchestra, he’s sending out all the cues, keeping precise tempo, thinking forward to the next line and who needs to be prompted at exactly the right moment and to what degree, and mostly, listening to the collected instruments as one giant, super instrument.