BGHS orchestra students let out their ‘inner rock star’
Buffalo Grove High School orchestra's Allison Chambers directs the string orchestra as they perform "I Am The Walrus" on Dec. 4 during their special "Rock On" concert. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 13, 2012 12:27PM
BUFFALO GROVE — The scariest part about the performance was not working with professional musicians, the large crowd or the fact that they would dance around the stage during the show.
Many of the musicians in Buffalo Grove High School’s orchestra said the most nerve-racking part about playing classic-rock songs on classical music instruments was the singing. Most of these cellists, violinists and others do not sing — and most of them do not sing the high notes of Freddy Mercury or the “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Once we realized we weren’t getting out of it, we embraced it,” said Cassie Deck, a BGHS sophomore viola and violin player.
But the Bison musicians said that every other aspect of their Dec. 5 performance with the Hampton Rock String Quartet was exciting. The foursome, which specializes in converting classic rock songs into recognizable classical pieces, spent the afternoon before the show with the students, then performed with them that night.
“It pushed us to our limits, to do better, since we’re trying to do better,” said Brian Finnerty, a freshman violinist.
With the New York City-based quartet, the orchestra played hits from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin and more. The set list also included “Scarborough Fair,” a Simon & Garfunkel song with a melody based on a 16th century canticle.
Elizabeth Bennett, BGHS director of orchestras, knows plenty about the histories of the songs her students played; she also knows the history of the quartet. After she started buying their arrangements to teach to her students, she began trying to put the funding together to bring them here for a performance. She found that the group booked two other dates in Wisconsin and Michigan during this trip, which Bennett said enabled her to break the cost down and bring professionals into her classroom.
“They’re really well-written, they’re not just cheesy arrangements,” Bennett said of the quartet. “It’s a whole other realm for the students. It’s better than anything they’ve ever heard before.”
And it gave the teens the chance to not only move around in their chairs but, at one point, get up and move around the stage, while playing.
John Reed, the quartet’s cellist, said it’s always thrilling to visit high schools and give students that kind of opportunity.
“The string players are usually the nerds,” Reed said. “It’s the brass players who get to play for the football games who get all the glory.”
And Mia Connery, a freshman viola player, said it worked.
“Miss Bennett encouraged us to let out our inner rock star,” she said.