King's orchestra strikes a chord

The university's new musical venture features musicians both new and experienced


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John Bogardus conducts the King's College Orchestra in its first concert. (Photo: Peter de Vries)

John Bogardus stands perfectly straight before the King's College Orchestra. Holding his conductor's stick, he raises both his hands and makes an almost violent lunge towards the orchestra. As he lunges, the auditorium is suddenly filled with the lush harmonies of Mozart's Idomeneo Overture.

The violinists' bows dart back and forth with calculated precision as they concentrate on Bogardus's movements. The other musicians follow his lead too, adding their instruments to the thick layers of sound.

About 100 people have gathered inside Prince Hall at the University of King's College to witness the orchestra's first ever concert. It's Monday, Nov. 29.

After playing through the Idomeneo Overture, the musicians performed all four parts of Beethoven's First Symphony with an easy seamlessness.

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Conductor John Bogardus and violinist Shari Clarke after their performance. (Photo: Peter de Vries)

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King's College Orchestra plays its first concert in Prince Hall at the University of King's College on Monday. (Video: Peter de Vries)

King's Student Union


Kevin MacDonell, a King's alumnus, was among the many audience members who gave the orchestra a hearty round of applause at the end of the performance. He watched Leslie Smith, his wife, play clarinet in the orchestra from the front row.

"I'm no real aficionado of classical music, but this is the real thing. They sound very professional," says MacDonell.

"It's a real treat to be able to hear that caliber of music. I felt like I was sitting right amongst the orchestra."

A conductor finds his niche

Bogardus, music director for the orchestra, 25, has been conducting musicians since he was 13 years old. He teaches violin and viola, and gives lessons to some of the orchestra's strings players.

He says he's excited the orchestra has received so much support and enthusiasm from the King's community. He says it normally takes years to build up community support for an orchestra, but at King's it just happened naturally.

He says this is very unusual, even in large urban centres.

"This is a really amazing thing that just happened."

The orchestra's musicians are a mix of new blood and veterans. Bogardus says he's very pleased with the new musicians' progress.

"The fact that people who have never played in an ensemble actually sat down and played an unarranged Beethoven symphony and Mozart overture is crazy," he says.

"And they did it extremely well."

A fiddle and then an orchestra

Shari Clarke has been playing violin with the orchestra every week since it formed in late September. She says she saw a King's College Orchestra poster advertising for auditions in mid-September. It had been quite a while since she had played symphonic music, so she decided to give it a shot. She went to the audition and got in.

She says she was initially nervous about having only little more than two months to practice and play Mozart and an entire Beethoven symphony.

"I thought ‘Gee that's awfully soon,' but everybody truly rose to the occasion and held themselves together as a group."

Clarke has been playing the violin since age nine, despite stopping twice for periods of three to four years. She rediscovered her passion for strings when she moved to Halifax and "got bit by the fiddle bug." She started to play fiddle and chamber music before eventually discovering the orchestra.

She says she's been "having a blast" playing with the orchestra since.

"I'm thrilled that so many people came to hear (the concert). I'm looking forward to the next term."

Hopes, dreams and money

Bogardus has great ambitions for the King's new orchestra. He says they will play Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony, a Mozart flute concerto, an orchestral cover of Joni Mitchell's Both Sides Now and one other piece to be determined.

Bogardus says it's his dream to have free lessons for each of the orchestra's musicians. The King's Student Union has already given the orchestra $3,000 in contingent funding, but Bogardus says more money and donations are needed to make his dreams a reality.

Bogardus says he wants everyone who plays an instrument, or even "kind of plays an instrument" to come out and audition for the orchestra.




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