A Far Cry - an orchestra with a difference

A Far Cry - an orchestra with a difference

Talented young Boston area musicians have formed a democratically-run orchestra in which solo spots and conducting opportunities are shared.

  • Posted on: 7 September 2017
  • By: mholbrow

A new approach to orchestral music has emerged in the Boston area with A Far Cry, a group of lively performers with an innovative style. Instead of the usual organization conducted by a baton-wielding figure on a podium, these musicians play standing in a semi-circle (except for cellos, who are seated), with members of the different sections taking turns leading. Orchestra members also serve as the announcers.

“It’s more fun that way, and we sound better if we can see each other,” said the member who spoke briefly about the group’s history and aspirations at its August 30 free concert at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Boston Esplanade.

The Criers, as they are known, are the in-house chamber orchestra for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They are mostly young -- some still in conservatory. They rehearse in a Jamaica Plain storefront, and their shifting leadership fosters lively interpretations that vary from one performance to another.

The August 30 event featured four pieces:

Scherzo from String Quartet in A Minor by Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), arr. by Crier violinist Alex Fortes

Harmonies du soir, Op. 31 by Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, BWV 1048, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Serenade for String Orchestra, Op. 48, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

The concert was a fine event for a summer evening outdoors. At the outset the Kreisler piece offered a dramatic confirmation of the group’s artistry. The Ysaÿe work, with its flowing chords, seemed made to be played outdoors at sunset. In the Brandenburg Concerto the instrumental motifs passing from one orchestral section to another were echoed visually by the formations of geese flying overhead. The vigorous Tchaikovsky composition with its authoritative opening and closing chords made an exciting finale to the evening and brought the enthusiastic audience of several hundred people to their feet.

Founded in 2007, A Far Cry was soon recognized for its combination of virtuosity and youthful zest. In October 2014 the group launched its in-house label, Crier Records, with the album Dreams and Prayers. The production received critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination.

The current Far Cry season includes appearances at fifteen of the group’s regular Boston-area venues including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, St. John’s Episcopal Church and the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall. On tour the group will appear at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, the Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music, and Duke Performances in Durham, North Carolina.