Troy High School senior Mitchell Chang performs a piece by Antonín Dvořák during an orchestra concerto recital May 18.

Troy High School senior Mitchell Chang performs a piece by Antonín Dvořák during an orchestra concerto recital May 18.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Troy High Orchestra seniors, conductor perform in person one final time

By: Jonathan Shead | Troy Times | Published May 29, 2021

 Troy High School conductor Alan MacNair accepts flowers after an orchestra concerto recital May 18. The recital was MacNair’s last performance as the high school’s orchestra conductor before retirement.

Troy High School conductor Alan MacNair accepts flowers after an orchestra concerto recital May 18. The recital was MacNair’s last performance as the high school’s orchestra conductor before retirement.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Troy High School senior Allie Tang performs a piece by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Troy High School senior Allie Tang performs a piece by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

TROY — For more than a year now, since March 2020, the Troy High School auditorium has sat dark, unoccupied by performers or an audience. Curtains were closed, and concerts shifted online, if they made the switch at all.

Students and staff were left to conduct orchestra class for an ensemble setting over Zoom — Troy High School Orchestra Conductor Alan MacNair said it was the hardest year of his more than 30 years conducting for the high school.

The auditorium curtains were finally peeled back, however, May 18 for five seniors to perform one final live concerto each before graduation.

“I’m so glad we got to do this. I was hoping we could have gotten the whole orchestra out here to play, but it obviously wasn’t possible. We couldn’t prepare the music, (or) get the kids together, but at least we had this concert to give a chance for the seniors,” MacNair said. “One last concert in the auditorium. It’s been a long time.”

Cellist Mitchell Chang, who performed Antonin Dvořák’s  “Cello Concerto in B Minor, Op. 104: III. Finale,” said he missed the experience of playing on a stage. “It’s been too long since I’ve been able to perform on a stage. I can’t remember the last time I had an actual concert up on that stage, so to be able to hear the sounds coming out from there was amazing.”

Pianist Annie Tang, who performed “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 22: I. Andante sostenuto,” by Camille Saint-Saëns, said she missed the rush of being onstage.

“There’s a sort of rush that I feel when I am sitting down at the piano. It just takes away all my nerves,” she said. “Before I was kind of walking around stressed, but then sitting down there and seeing the stage lights on the piano, it was something that I really missed.”

For pianist Megan Cao, who played “Piano Concerto in G Major: I. Allegramente,” by Maurice Ravel, it’s the social setting orchestra provided that she still misses most. “A large part of orchestra and band is the socialness of it. I miss talking to my stand partner and asking what measure we’re on, or that type of thing. It’s been really lost through Zoom.”

The other two senior performers were violinist Katherine Zhao, who performed “Violin Concerto, Op. 14: I. Allegro,” by Samuel Barber, and violinist Angela Lee, who performed “Violin Concerto No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 22: I. Allegro moderato,” by Henryk Wieniawski.

“I think, especially for seniors, it’s a huge win, because they haven’t been able to play in a concert setting,” Orchestra Association of Troy High Secretary Debbie Pecis said. “It’s just a way of showing they’ve still been working all year. They’ve still been practicing. It’s meaningful in that regard, because this year has been a challenge, but it hasn’t been a wash for them.”

The Orchestra Association of Troy High is a parent-led volunteer group made up of parents from all four orchestras — freshman, concert, philharmonic and symphony. The organization hosts fundraisers to help the orchestras pay for summer camps, uniforms and performance needs.

The night was bittersweet for more than the five seniors who took center stage to perform May 18. MacNair was also conducting his last concert on the auditorium stage before retiring from the program a second time.

MacNair, who retired from conducting initially in 2015, came back in 2018 after his replacement decided to part ways with the orchestra. Given the time frame of the previous conductor’s departure in the summer, MacNair knew the difficulty in finding a replacement only months before school began, so he stepped up to fill in for the past three years.

“We did a national search and we have a great replacement for me, so I think it’s going to be great,” MacNair said, adding that as vaccination efforts progress, he believes students will commence rehearsing together again by next fall. MacNair hopes to see full orchestra concerts, playing to full audiences, by winter 2021-22.

A recorded livestream of the concert is available online at youtube.com/watch?v=l1iWjnfuyN4.