Ft. Monroe’s Orchestra: A View from Inside the Moat

Fort Monroe in the early evening is a downright bucolic scene. There might be a soccer game going on, people will be fishing off the bridges and walking their dogs, and if it’s a Tuesday night, you might hear the sounds of a symphony orchestra coming from inside the moat- that would be the Hampton Roads Philharmonic.

Ft. Monroe moat

When I was first asked to play in this new community orchestra, I had never heard of Fort Monroe, nor did I know how far it was down the peninsula. So the first time I drove down from Williamsburg, took the “Last Exit Before Tunnel” and then had to drive through a tiny stone passageway to get to the rehearsal space, I was mildly alarmed at what I had gotten myself into – and excited to discover this new place.

Ft. Monroe with lighthouse

That first summer I drove down every week with my viola, crossing the bridge from Phoebus to Ft. Monroe to see gorgeous sunsets on the water, the sun glinting off the surface, and the boats bobbing at the marina. Pulling up to our rehearsal building I’d hear the familiar cacophony of an entire orchestra warming up, with the occasional squawk or squeal alongside orderly scales going up and down. I’ll never forget our first concert. I was thrilled to be playing with this group of musicians – I was so proud of the way we sounded, and I beamed when we all stood up to accept the applause.

We have a concert this weekend and would be thrilled for you to be there. It’s going to be fun! The big, romantic, epic piece will be Grieg’s Norwegian Dances, which has every mood from soft and forlorn to huge and loud and majestic. The Berlioz Hungarian March is fun, loud, recognizable, and if you want a laugh, listen for the “cha-cha-chas”. The Mozart overture is light and fun, with lots of fast notes. And the last piece is something I have never played in my life – a double-bass concerto. The soloist, Matt Gold, cuts a lanky and boyish figure and brings his youthful exuberance to the music. He makes the bass sound positively joyous in this charming classical piece by Bottesini.

Now that I’ve played with the Philharmonic for a couple of years, some of that first excitement has inevitably worn off. But the thrill of the concert is still there. And the feeling of being in the midst of and a part of this huge symphonic sound – with the brass and winds booming at my back and the grounded sound of the strings all around me and the vibration of my instrument under my fingers – well- that never gets old.

Our concerts are Saturday at 7:30 pm at the Fort Monroe Theater and Sunday at 3 the First Presbyterian Church in Hampton. Both shows are free, so please come, and sign up for our email list so you can come to our concerts next year as well! Thank you!

Here are some samples from last season- I think we sound pretty good!

Saturday 9th 7:30p @ Ft. Monroe Theater (42 Tidball Rd., Hampton, VA 23669)
Sunday 10th 3pm @ First Presbyterian Hampton Church (514 S Armistead Ave, Hampton, VA 23669)

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