The Celesta and The Whirly
During the February wind orchestra concert, besides playing the piano, I also played two other instruments, the celesta and the whirly tube. I have touched the celesta before and know what it sounds like, so I am somewhat familiar with it. As for the whirly, it was my first time getting to know this instrument. When rotating it, the tube can produce a sound like the wind. Overall, I played three instruments in this concert; it was such a special experience.
The keyboard part of one of the pieces in the program requires a player to play both the piano and the celesta. According to the instructions on the score, a player has to switch between the two instruments; therefore, I placed the instruments in an L shape, which is more convenient to move from one to another. Most of the time, there are multiple bars of rest between the two, but sometimes the time was tighter, so I needed to switch quickly. It was such a challenge to design and manage the timing of switching.
Another special feature is that the keyboard of the celesta is only four octaves or so, which is much narrower than that of a piano. The timbre of the celesta is also different, which produces a crystal sound and is like little bells. Moreover, it is kind of a transposing instrument - the actual pitch is one octave higher than the notation on the score. Although there is a sticky note on the instrument indicating where the written middle C is on the keyboard, I was still not used to it when I heard the actual pitch being not the same as the notation.
After several rehearsals, I got more used to shifting freely between the two instruments, and I enjoyed playing the piece more and more. On the one hand, I could hear different and unique sounds on the two keyboard instruments; on the other hand, because this piece, “Southern Harmony” by Donald Grantham, is very beautiful, with each movement having distinctive characteristics, even after the performance, I felt that the aftertaste is endless, and the melodies are still lingering in my mind.
Because the percussion part of another piece, “Some treasures are heavy with human tears” by John Mackey, required more instruments to create sound effects, and the number of percussionists in the ensemble was not enough, I helped with rotating the whirly. This is the first time I heard of this kind of "instrument." Even though it was merely a seemingly ordinary plastic tube, it was actually quite difficult to make sounds, and required the strength of my whole arm to rotate fast in circles. I tried many times in the beginning, almost scraping the skin of my fingers, but I gradually became proficient! After the performance, one of the audience even came on the stage and curiously asked me to explain and demonstrate how the tube made sounds. Later, when I looked back at myself rotating the whirly tube in the Facebook live video of the performance, I felt that my movements were so cute and funny. How interesting!
As for the piano, I needn’t say more…… I am very happy to be able to create and enjoy music with everyone. Every performance in the band is very exciting, and has left unforgettable memories for my life here!
Chin-Hsuan Sharon Cheng (written in Feb., 2020)
經過多次的上課練習，我適應在兩個樂器中自如的切換，且越來越享受，一方面因為在兩個鍵盤樂器能聽到不同且特別的聲音，另一方面則是因為這次的這首曲目（“Southern Harmony” by Donald Grantham）很好聽，每個樂章都有鮮明的色彩，即使演出後我仍然覺得回味無窮，腦海都是曲子的旋律。
因為音樂會另外一首曲目（“Some treasures are heavy with human tears” by John Mackey）的擊樂需要更多樂器製造特別的音效，樂團裡擊樂人數不太足夠，所以我去幫忙負責旋轉管子的部分。我第一次知道和接觸這種「樂器」，其實它就只是一根塑膠管子，但別看它只是根看似再普通不過的塑膠管子，實際上要轉出聲音還蠻困難的，需要用整隻手臂的力量快速轉動才會有聲音，剛開始試了很久，還差點磨到手破皮，後來漸漸熟練了！當天演出結束後，甚至還有觀眾走上台好奇地詢問我，請我解釋和示範那個管子怎麼發聲。後來我回看直播影片中努力旋轉管子的自己，更是覺得自己轉動管子時既好笑又可愛，真是有趣！
Chin-Hsuan Sharon Cheng (2022年2月)