Favorite Oberlin Memories Blog no. 1: December Time
Hello Dear Friends! I’m sitting at the Cleveland Airport, waiting to travel to my first audition of the graduate audition season, and am contemplating what I could share with all of you. Spring semester begins on Monday, and with that my final semester at Oberlin. I say that with a very heavy heart. Most of the time I try not to think about it, trusting that I’ll be ready to go when the time comes. Oberlin has become a kind of home for me these past few years, and it’s hard to imagine not having to return at some point. So, to celebrate my Obie time, I’m aiming to start a string of blogs with my favorite memories over the next few months.
Forget the dreariness of February weather and the upcoming preparations for your Valentine’s cards for a minute, and let me take you back to the world of December time (for some known as Christmas time). One of my favorite things about December is the Oberlin Children’s Holiday Concert. 2019 was my third year participating since the tradition started, which was, come to think of it, three years ago.
The event is organized by the Conservatory Council of Students (CCS). CCS members change routinely every year, and any conservatory student can put out a statement and run for election.
Every year, we start rehearsing early in December, culminating in a concert sometime before or during reading period (the week before final exams when classes have ended). The rehearsals feel like a giant jam session of holiday favorites with a big group of friends. Seating is totally voluntary, and everyone ends up wherever they feel most comfortable. Generally one of the conservatory conducting students will lead the orchestra, which rehearses four times or so before the concert. Everyone just shows up for however much rehearsal time they can fit into their schedules. The program usually includes everyone’s favorite, “Sleigh Ride!,” along with selections from the Nutcracker, and whatever else feels good that year.
When the big day arrives the dress code is your ugliest holiday sweater. I’m going to let you in on a secret I hope no one has noticed — I don’t own an ugly holiday sweater. Instead I’ve always worn a very soft plushy sweater my brother brought me from Peru. It has alpacas on it, and for anyone with a religious background, I try to convince them that the alpacas are camels. So far I’ve always gotten away with it. Secret’s out, everyone, they’re really alpacas. I’m graduating, though, so it’s fine.
A few hours before the actual concert, there are pre-concert festivities. These include pizza, cookies and baked goods from Blue Rooster (a popular bakery in Oberlin), and the string quartet. The string quartet is one of my favorite things. It’s a group of students who have learned one passage from a well-known string quartet, and allow anyone to come up and conduct them, following their cues as exactly as they can. I could stand there watching all afternoon. You’ll see a safety and security officer demurely trying his hand at conducting one minute, and a five-year-old kid wildly waving the baton as the quartet goes into a total frenzy the next.
My friend Maggie King has been doing face painting ever since the event started, letting everyone go home with an adorable design.
Finally the crowd gathers in Warner Concert Hall and the festivities begin. The children’s concert is generally very popular. Faculty and staff bring their families, and many members of the Oberlin community also join in the fun. We’ve even had one of the city council members come with her family, who loved it so much she brought it up in one of the subsequent council meetings. Conservatory Communications also usually sends a photographer to capture some of the holiday magic.
This year we had the added bonus of a real live sugarplum fairy, performed by the one and only Liam Kaplan (check in next semester and watch Liam solo with the Oberlin Orchestra!), who did a wonderfully humorous rendition of the movement, dancing on stage very gracefully with perfectly accurate timing.
During the inaugural year, I remember the evening was topped off with a beautiful snowfall. The atmosphere was magical, and it was such a great night. I headed off right afterwards for an ad hoc sophomore recital I was doing with two others, where I played Brahms Violin Sonata no. 3. It went quite well, and, spoiler alert, I may be bringing the sonata back for my senior recital. We’ll see. On that note, hold tight for memory post no. 2, there’s plenty more to come.