The pops concert goes digital

Glory Reitz—Staff Writer

The word “orchestra” doesn’t usually conjure images of video game characters, but, at 7 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 10, Dordt’s mass band and orchestra will don costumes to play the annual pops concert, as part of this year’s video game theme.

In May, band director Onsby Rose sent a survey to every current Dordt student and incoming freshman. He provided several options for this year’s theme, then waited to hear back from the concert’s future audience.

“I can’t remember all the choices I gave them,” Rose said. “There was five or six of them, and it was very clearly video game music that they chose.”

In keeping with tradition, each section of the band and orchestra will follow a different video game theme, and the audience will vote for the section with the best costumes.

Hannah Hansum, a sophomore French horn player, went with her section to the costume store to find Assassin’s Creed costumes together. 

“You’re not in your full black, like very traditional,” Hansum said. “It’s a more relaxed concert. You get to have a little bit more fun. Not that other concerts aren’t fun, but, fun in a different way.”

This year, the director has invited the audience to join the band in dressing up. Hansum expects Dordt students to “get into it” and have fun with the theme.

Another aspect of Dordt’s pops concerts are its use of emcee-hosted skits and banter to carry the concert along. This year’s event hosts, juniors Lindsay Kuiper and Sofia Bouma, are writing their own scripts and have big plans to make the concert memorable.

“The hardest part of this,” Kuiper said, “is just trying to figure out both what’s expected from a host, but then also to be unique.”

Neither of the hosts are involved with the band, nor do they have much video game expertise. Kuiper studies secondary English education, and Bouma is an English and biology student. Both Kuiper and Bouma are hoping to utilize their theatre experience to make the concert and enjoyable and fun.

“We’re going to incorporate the theme into the skits and bits a lot,” Bouma said. “Lindsay and I do have somewhat limited knowledge of video games, so we kind of went off of that… we will probably do a little bit more research to incorporate some of the other games that are in the concert.”

Rose doesn’t boast much experience with video gaming, either. He said he hasn’t really played since the Atari 2600 era. So, when the results of his online survey came back, he dove into an unfamiliar part of the music world.

“[Rose] walked up and he’s like, ‘I don’t play video games, so I was kinda just choosing blind,’” Hansum said. “And we all kind of sat down and we were like, ‘what did he choose?’ And it was good. It was good stuff.”

Rose said he sifted through music sources with which he was familiar, searching for popular video game music, and chose different types of pieces based to help round out the concert. According to Hansum, Rose’s selection resulted in a variety of music. She said a nontraditional concert like the pops allows each instrument to touch on a new style and play parts they don’t normally receive.

The rearranged part assignments come simply from the fact that video game music and other storytelling media uses a different style than the classical music of a normal concert. The number of students gathered to play that music is also somewhat nontraditional.

Rose estimates 117 students compose the mass band, plus another 35 from the orchestra. When the whole group is together, Hansum said they must rehearse in the B.J. Haan auditorium because they don’t fit in the band room.

In fall of 2020, Dordt hosted a similar pops concert. The theme came from John Williams’ music and was held in the gym with socially distanced guidelines in place. Each student in the band received two tickets for their family, and the musicians spread out across the court. Several students, including Hansum, missed the opportunity to play in the concert because of quarantine regulations. This year, the mass band is truly “together” again.

“It’s super fun,” Hansum said. “It’s kind of nice because you get to meet everyone.”

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