The music program at Oyster River High School has performed just about everywhere: the auditorium, the gym, even outside on the turf field. However, this year they finally have the chance to perform in a state of the art concert hall at the brand new Oyster River Middle School.
On Wednesday May 25th, the ORHS band, string orchestra, and guitar class will be performing at 6:30 pm in the new concert hall at ORMS. It will be a new experience for everyone: conductors, performers, and even audience members. The hall has a new set up which allows for more intimate performances and a different sound with the acoustics of the room. A concert taking place is exciting in itself since the last spring concert happened in 2019, and now it is even more exciting with the addition of a new performance space.
The ORMS concert hall is a brand new space with tall ceilings, glossy wood floors, and 901 cushioned seats. The hall shows the district’s commitment to music and ORHS and ORMS string orchestra director Andrea von Oeyen said, “we are all so grateful for the [space]. Dr. Morse and all the administration has worked really hard to get that space in the new middle school.” She continued, “it is something that makes you stand a little taller and take pride in what you do a little more.”
Maggie Farwell (‘23) was able to go to her younger sister’s middle school orchestra concert and found the space to be very different as an audience member. She said, “it was easier to listen. The sound just travels everywhere.” The room has panels on the walls and ceiling which are what make the acoustics so different and help to create the best sound.
Jacob Boulay teaches at both ORHS and ORMS. He has already had the chance for his groups to perform in the space. At ORHS, he teaches the guitar class which will be performing Thursday. He agreed with Farwell and said, “it’s a different space. The acoustics are wonderfully balanced and because there’s no stage, it makes a very intimate experience for the audience and the performer.”
At the ORHS auditorium, performers are set up above the audience on a large stage very far away from any seats. At the ORMS hall, performers are set up on the floor with audience members curved around and above them. “I think it will be a different experience for the audience because they’re so much closer than we’re accustomed to here at the high school,” said band director Marc LaForce.
Although the design of the space creates a feeling of more intimacy with the closeness between audience members and performers, there is a much larger capacity. This is especially important with the large group pieces that band and string orchestra perform together. With 901 seats, family, friends, and almost anyone can attend concerts without space concerns. Von Oeyen said “we were not even on the cusp of having a [space] problem. We did have a problem. It’s really nice to not worry about that.”
The only downside for the music groups at ORHS is that the concert hall is at ORMS. This means that the high school band and guitar classes have not been able to practice in the space yet. String orchestra has been there a few times but Farwell said it was not enough time to make her feel completely comfortable with the space yet. The set up makes it feel very different. Farwell said, “in the concert hall you’re down and [it feels] like everyone is looking down on you.” She said that this difference might make her more nervous on performance night.
Von Oeyen shared that the closeness between the performers and the audience can “definitely make students a little more nervous… There’s no real separation like there is when you have a stage.” However, this creates the ‘intimate’ experience and she said, “I think that really does lend itself to more communicative performances.”
Each group is looking forward to this concert and many more to come in the future at the concert hall. Von Oeyen said that having the space makes her “feel like the art is respected… [We need] to give as many kids the opportunity to perform, sing, play in that space so that they feel that too. It really inspires the fact that music is valued in our community.”