The Solo Symphony was incredible! In my previous article describing the performance, I was still slightly unclear as to what exactly this Solo Symphony would entail. After experiencing the performance, it is quite clear! Normally when you enjoy a symphony, the focus is on listening to the beautiful music and not much attention is paid to the conductor. With a dramatic introduction and an original piano musical score by Composer Graham Reynolds and creative talent and choreography from Artistic Director and Founder of Forklift Danceworks Allison Orr, a whole new spin was given to the term “symphony”, turning the tables and placing the spotlight on the Music Director and Conductor of The Austin Symphony, Peter Bay.
The performance intertwined music, movement and autobiographical clips of Peter speaking of his love for music and highlighted the skill and passion of Peter towards the 13-member chamber ensemble. In the intimate setting of the Rollins Studio at the Long Center, I was able to feel Peter’s energy and get a clear view of Peter’s facial expressions ranging from pure joy to witty and sly, and the conversation with the musicians through music and movement was incredible. It is amazing how music effects our lives and can induce emotion and build memories and really communicate simply through the sound of instruments mingling. The Solo Symphony really reminded the audience of the strong impact that music plays in our daily lives, whether it’s stirring up an old memory, making a new one or when words can’t describe a feeling, music does indeed.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Peter Bay and learn more about him and understand his perspective on being a part of the Solo Symphony. Originally Peter thought he wanted to be a music teacher and naturally played in the school band. Peter laughed when he told me that his first music “gig” was playing in the school’s basketball pep band on the sidelines of the court! I admitted to Peter that I didn’t fully understand what exactly this Solo Symphony was going to be, and he admitted to me that, he too, didn’t quite understand the concept when Allison approached him with the idea. This was something that you really have to experience firsthand to fully appreciate.
I asked Peter how he evolved into a conductor and why he is so drawn to music; I personally find it fascinating how people arrive at their current professions. Peter said the biggest factor in his love for music stemmed from his father filling the house with works from famous, and extremely talented, composers and musicians throughout Peter’s childhood.
Peter also has quite an impact on the musicians he works with. When I asked Chuck Fisher, a percussionist in the ensemble, what drew him to be a part of the Solo Symphony, he responded, “I think I was most interested in getting to play for Peter Bay. I had never played for him before and I knew it would be a great opportunity for me. I’ve seen him conduct many times, but this was my first chance to perform with him.” Chuck went on to say that Peter is a “pleasure to have as a conductor.”
Peter enthusiastically explained to me that standing before a group of musicians and conducting, while making such beautiful music, is very fulfilling and he believes he has a “dream job.” Peter compares conducting and working with groups of musicians and creating music to sculpting clay, making small changes when needed and also allowing the “clay” to run its own course, in some ways, as a sort of improvisation.
The Solo Symphony was something that most people, not even Peter Bay, have experienced before. It truly was a creative art form intermingling skilled professionals, thrilling music and bits of history from the conductor, that normally is not part of a symphonic performance. It was quite an enriching and fulfilling experience sure to inspire and captivate any audience.