Northwestern Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Help 'Create a Symphony' at Miller Symphony Hall

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 by The Press in Focus

Have you ever blown across the top of a bottle, or tapped a rhythm on a coffee can or the bottom of a pot? How about shaking a bottle of seeds or beans, or blowing on a straw? All around us, there are everyday objects that you can use to make music.

The Allentown Symphony presents "Create a Symphony," this season's Family Concert, 2 p.m. May 5, Miller Symphony Hall. For this concert, I wanted to show how you can make musical instruments out of a variety of household items.

Everyone is encouraged to come to the concert and bring his or her own homemade instruments to play. The entire concert will involve the use of unusual instruments like tuned bottles, walnut and button castanets, hose-a-phones, a typewriter, shakers, coffee can drums and more, all accompanied by the symphony orchestra.

The final piece on the concert will be the world premiere of a piece that I wrote that will feature audience members playing instruments they have made at home and brought to the concert. "Concerto for Homemade Instruments and Orchestra" will showcase six different groups of homemade instruments representing the wind, brass, string and percussion families of an orchestra.

Directions for making the instruments are available at the Allentown Symphony website, Click on "Create a Symphony."

Some of the instruments you can make include woodwinds: comb kazoos, straws, pan-pipes; brass: bleach bottle bugles, hose-a-phones; strings: milk carton violin, cereal box cellos, wash tub bass; pitched percussion: flower pot chimes, bottle xylophones; and other percussion: coffee can drums, button castanets, shakers.

There are two videos on YouTube that go with this concert. The first one is about how I composed the piece, and in that video I also demonstrate the different instruments that you can make. (YouTube: Diane Wittry - Concerto for Homemade Instruments Part 1).

The second video introduces the rhythms that the young people will play on their instruments during the performance of the piece, and there is an electronic version of the entire piece with cue cards so that the student can practice performing on his or her homemade instruments before they attend the concert. (YouTube: Diane Wittry - Concerto for Homemade Instruments Part 2).

I feel that it is very important to get children involved in music, and for them to recognize that it can be a fun and exciting part of their life. The "Create a Symphony" concert by the Allentown Symphony will encourage children to create their own instruments and to play along as part of the orchestra.

During the concert, they will be introduced to all the instrument families of the orchestra and to each individual instrument as we perform some great music by famous classical composers.

Ravel's "Bolero" will be a favorite for all, along with the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and the "March of the Gladiators." Other pieces featured in the concert include Mozart's "Eine Kline Nacht Music," Bizet's "Habanera" from "Carmen," Anderson's "The Typewriter," Mozart's "Horn Concerto No. 1," performed on a garden hose, and Bach's famous "Air on the G String" performed by the string section, but accompanied by tuned bottles.

I hope that you will open your child's eyes and ears to the joys and fun of playing a musical instrument. Participating in music can be such a life-changing experience. Join us at the Allentown Symphony for our Family Concert May 5 and together we will "Create a Symphony."

Diane Wittry is Music Director and Conductor of the Allentown Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director (U.S.A.) of the International Cultural Exchange Program with the Sarajevo Philharmonic, Bosnia.

Ticket information for concerts at Miller Symphony Hall: Box Office, 23 N. Sixth St., Allentown;, 610-432-6715