A Kinrowan Estate story: Our Orchestra

Indeed there is an orchestra at Kinrowan Estate that probably as been around as long as the Never-ending Session has been. I’ve booked them several times for private parties held in the Robert Graves Memorial Room.

Musicians. You have to forgive them their foibles, because of the music, but sometimes you have to think about it.

Oh, sorry, I thought you were my boss! Welcome to the orchestra archives. What brings you here and how can I help you? My name is Claudia, I’m the assistant music archivist. Oh — it’s actually the orchestra itself you’re interested in? How nice! I love telling people about our orchestra.

Not too many people know that the pit orchestra of our theatre here in the Kinrowan Hall is also a top notch orchestra on its own right. Oh yes, it really is. Maestro is our 42nd since the orchestra’s inception in or around 1694, that’s a bit hazy in the records. He’s a bit more tetchy than the last one, actually, but the music is all the better for it, I’m sure.

One could make a case that it’s an early music ensemble, but only because they still keep the repertoire alive from the first years, even now, and we have a staff of very good luthiers keeping the old instruments together. They also keep our more modern fiddles in fine fettle!

The orchestra has played over the years for everything from our light opera productions, the spate of Rodger and Hammerstein musicals we had a run of for a while, music hall revivals, to burlesque, but we always produce at least a short season of classical presentations, sometimes presenting premieres of pieces that might surprise. Mr. Cage’s ‘Strata’, for instance, which he wrote on commission specially for the orchestra, has never been performed anywhere else, and probably won’t be heard again unless they air it out again here. Most people don’t know it even exists.

Those classical performances, if you ask me, are the most important and most valuable of all the orchestra’s functions, but perhaps I’m biased!

The members change out every now and again, but most are with us for decades, which is why the ensemble is so tight, especially the brass sections, which have been described as the glory of the orchestra! Our current concertmaster, William Bonicelli, a ‘very’ fine violinist, has been with the orchestra now through two conductors, but the record goes to our principal bassoon, who came to the orchestra as an exceptionally talented boy from Germany, and has been sitting that chair ever since.

You’ll understand that time for the Orchestra can be very elastic, just like in the rest of the Estate.

Over the years, we’ve had some very interesting audiences, and audience members. The ‘Earl of Carrick,’ ahem, ahem, and his mistress — well, whichever mistress he had in tow at the moment — was a particularly frequent visitor, some of my predecessors have passed along some very ‘interesting’ stories. He quite enjoyed music, often bringing more than one of his favorites along with him. Ms. Gwynne was the orchestra’s preferred choice of these, I must say. Over the years, when we performed popular pieces she knew, it wasn’t unusual for her to sing along from the Royal box!

And once, His Majesty–pardon me, the ‘Earl’–brought along both the Duchess of Castlemain ‘and’ Ms. Stuart. I suppose one could say it was entertaining, but it was rather a spectacle. Especially since he also dragged the spaniels along. There were a lot of rather scandalized glances at their box that night!

Well, the orchestra has a rehearsal in about two hours, and I’d better get a move on! If you like, I can sneak you a score and you can listen from a box, if you promise to bring it back before you leave, or we’ll have to send Mr. McKenzie’s best goons after you! They’re working on a new concerto by Salieri, it’ll be another premiere. Oh yes, it’s a brand new piece.

I did say that time is rather elastic here, didn’t I? It makes our archival jobs very interesting indeed!

About Zina Lee

Zina Lee, Reviewer, is an Irish fiddler, writer, designer, and teacher (not necessarily in that order). “Career” is an excellent word for her working past; she has owned a landscaping company, designed and made wedding gowns, worked for lawyers, UPS as a delivery driver, several newspapers as a writer and editor, been a SAG/AFTRA actress, taught software, is an award-winning theatrical costumer, been a credit manager, a sales person, and a stage manager for an opera company, owns and runs several Web businesses, taught Irish stepdancing and makes Irish stepdancing solo dresses, among other things. Zina can’t quite make out how a Chinese American woman ended up with her life built largely around the arts of a tiny island country thousands of miles away. Zina plays out at sessions around the globe and with Denver area Irish traditional music band Ask My Father, and can be reached by e-mail here. Slán!

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