Serenade of the Winter Night

While the main focus of a student’s life is on academics, getting involved in club activities is a great way to make new friends through shared interests and enjoy a fulfilling student life. Phraewa Saengaroon, a 2nd year GSEP student, is an active member of the Tokyo Tech Orchestra and shares her impressions of a recent concert:

Tokyo Tech Orchestra String Section

On December 24th of 2023, the Tokyo Tech Orchestra held its annual 169th winter concert at the Minato Mirai Hall. I was able to perform as a violinist for the concert and was delighted that over 2000 people came to watch. The pieces that were played include Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4, The Nutcracker Suite as well as Peer Gynt by Grieg; a perfect combination for a Christmas Eve night right?

I have been playing the violin since I was 3 years old and have participated in overseas music competitions as a soloist professionally. Joining the Tokyo Tech Orchestra was the first experience for me to play in a big group. Playing in an orchestra compared to a soloist is very different. With over 40 musicians, the harmony and blendings of the sounds of each instrument are crucial to deliver a satisfying performance. Thus, everyone must be as one when serenading a piece. After graduating high school, I didn’t have a lot of chances to perform in such a big venue for a long time. The anxiety right before the recital, the passionate melodies that I wanted to deliver to the audience, and the sense of satisfaction when the last note of the piece was played brought back nostalgia and reminded me of the days when I pursued violin professionally.

Me holding my 13 years old violin

Of all the pieces played my favorite was the Nutcracker Suite and Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4. The Nutcracker Suite, a historical heritage composed by my all-time favorite composer, Tchaikovsky, where we can see the magnificent ballet and the majestic sounds of the orchestra. Though we did not have ballerinas on stage, the wonderful and playful melodies magically echoed throughout the hall. In one part of the suite, there was a section where there was a harp solo. The sound of the harp was so enchanted I could feel the stage floor vibrating and I was so intoxicated by its melody that my heart melted.

Stage View and Getting Ready for the Concert

Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4 was a classical piece composed dedicated to Tchaikovsky’s friend, Nadezhda von Meck who was an influential figure in the arts during that period. One word that can describe the meaning of this piece is the word “fate”. Tchaikovsky stated “the fatal power which prevents one from attaining the goal of happiness … There is nothing to be done but to submit to it and lament in vain” and that “all life is an unbroken alternation of hard reality with swiftly passing dreams and visions of happiness …”. The symphony lasted about 50 minutes and was the most physically straining piece of all within the schedule. Due to the fact that I have small hands and short fingers, playing the Tchaikovsky Symphony No.4 was one example of the challenges I faced. The piece itself first of all requires an intermediate understanding of the feelings the composer wants to convey. However, the most difficult of all for me was that most of the movement consisted of extremely high notes that my little hands could barely reach on time. During the movement, my wrists were up to the neck of my violin, my elbows bent, and I needed to stay in that awkward position for quite a while. I glanced at my bandmates with their big hands and long fingers easily reaching the notes and was filled with jealousy! In a way, those kinds of challenges make playing the violin fun for me.

Overall, having the chance to perform the violin again was a delightful experience and I was very satisfied with the performance I’ve given. Seeing many GSEP members coming to watch was also very heartwarming. I hope that in the future I can improve and deliver a much more astonishing performance in the world of classical music!

Fellow GSEP Members Group Photo