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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Under the stage: Pit orchestra elevates drama performance

Chloe Lublinerman
Pit orchestra members play under the McAfee Stage.

Eyes locked on one another, members of the pit orchestra opened with a fast-moving scale. Each musician paid attention to what went on above them, ready to adjust to any changes on stage.

With the spring musical “Something Rotten” running from April 26 to May 4, the drama program has relied heavily on collaborating with the music department to put the final professional touch on performances they have rehearsed for months. Behind the scenes, or rather under, pit orchestra members have been hard at work preparing their live set in recent weeks. Pit orchestras have been used in years past, such as in the 2022 musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

The pit orchestra, conducted by Los Gatos orchestra director Armeen Ghafourpour, consisted of 20 musicians playing instruments from strings to wind to percussion. While anyone could join, most members were in one of the school ensembles, including orchestra, band and percussion. 

The “Something Rotten” set runs for approximately two hours and includes around 20 pieces. Musicians were expected to learn the music beforehand and use the rehearsals to tie it together. During the rehearsals, ensemble members focused on matching each scene’s mood and elevating the performance. 

Musicians have more creative freedom in making different sounds and timing than a pre-recorded set. For example, when the actors display triumph, the music changes into a brighter theme. The musicians are actors, acting through their instruments by utilizing a range of sounds and moods. 

Because coming in at the perfect time requires precision, Ghafourpour spent much time coordinating each entrance and timing tricky areas. 

“If you’re using a pre-recorded track, it’s not going to sound as natural as having live music,” sophomore flutist Lia Go said. “A great performance is created from the live interaction between the actors and the musicians.”

Freshman bassist Chloe Lublinerman joined the pit orchestra to experience a different form of expressing music. 

“You get to be a part of something bigger,” Lublinerman said. “As someone who enjoys musicals, it’s exciting to find out where the musical effects come from and to be the one actually making them.”

Lublinerman said the music differs from the standard orchestral repertoire in that it is more contemporary and implements unique instrumentation, such as an electric guitar, which freshman Eyal Landau plays.  

“Pit orchestra is unlike a regular orchestra, where every part is somewhat independent,” Lublinerman said. “It gets a little crowded, but it’s really fun working with people I normally wouldn’t get to work closely with, from band or percussion.”

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