Behind the scenes: The value of a skilled Concert Master
Updated: May 31, 2019
A Concert Master sits in the first chair to the left of the Conductor. In an orchestra, that is the seat of the 1st Violin. That is why the term "First Chair" and "Concert Master" are mostly synonymous. This First Chair is a senior musician within a musical group and carries several important roles:
1. Communicating the Maestri's instructions to the other strings in technical musical language (bowing instructions) as the First Chairs in each section (Clarinet, Oboe, flute, for example) will do for their instruments, but the 1st Violin is the lead in an orchestra.
2. Setting the tone for decorum and etiquette within an orchestra - calling for order, ensuring the wishes of the conductor are being carried out or met with respect.
3. Acting as a conduit between the Conductor and the other instrumentalists; a skilled musical liaison
4. Performing the significant solos of the string section
5. Preparing the orchestra for performance by overseeing the tuning - this is vitally important to a successful presentation
6. Providing ongoing leadership to the string section, signaled through bowing and counting rests
7. At times, the role includes booking instrumentalists and advocating for their rights per union or organizational regulations.
In many Orchestras, there are a variety of guest conductors throughout the season, therefore, a dedicated and gifted Concert Master sets the overall tone for this group of musicians. This is a difficult and diplomatic role, requiring deft negotiating skills, clear instruction, ruthless efficiency, exacting technique, and (of course) beautiful artistry.
Sharon Lee, in the photo below, is one such gem and if you have the opportunity to watch her perform, you will be lucky indeed. You can see her on Tuesday nights at Symphony in the Gardens at Casa Loma (casaloma.ca) and with our own Maestro Paolo Busato on July 9th (the theme will be Bohemian Rhapsody, with the Queen Tribute Band) and on August 13th, our Divine Diva's Night with Allison Arends, Soprano; Cassandra Warner, Mezzo; Danielle MacMillan, Mezzo; Tonia Cianciulli, Soprano; Deanna Pauletto, Mezzo; and Anne Marie Ramos, Soprano.