Orchestra demonstrates how music comes to­gether

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

FARRAH MAFFAI staff Valerie Lunt, 6, learns how to lead an orchestra from conductor Anthony LaGroth of the Central Jersey Concert Orchestra at the Campbell School on Wednesday.FARRAH MAFFAI staff Valerie Lunt, 6, learns how to lead an orchestra from conductor Anthony LaGroth of the Central Jersey Concert Orchestra at the Campbell School on Wednesday.

METUCHEN — Students at Campbell School got an early Christmas present Dec. 23.

The Central Jersey Concert Orchestra dropped by and put on a performance that was both educational and entertaining.

The 30-piece ensemble, led by conductor Anthony LaGroth, has been bringing music to the schools of Middlesex and Monmouth counties since 1962.

The purpose of this special musical assembly at Campbell was twofold, according to LaGroth: to give young kids the chance to hear live musicians in action on non-electric instruments and to introduce them to the individual sounds that, played together, make up an orchestra.

After the students filed into the gymnasium class by class with their teachers and everyone was seated, Principal Robert Gugliara welcomed the audience and introduced the orchestra.

The program began with a piece that was sure to please.

The theme from "The Mickey Mouse Club" turned into "Popeye the Sailor Man" which became "God Bless America" and ended up as the "Star Wars" theme.

"OK," said LaGroth, "we just played parts of four different songs together. Does anybody know the word for that?"

No one did.

"The word is ‘medley,’ " he said and went on to further define the word.

LaGroth used a restrained, lush ver­sion of "The Christmas Song" as a segue into breaking down the orchestra into four sections: strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion.

After each instrument was visually in­troduced to the crowd, the string section demonstrated its sound by playing a bit of Mozart’s "Eine Kleine Nacht Musik."

The first bit of audience participation of the morning followed. LaGroth asked the students to clap during certain parts of a Johann Strauss waltz he and the musicians were about to perform.

"This song is played every Christmas Eve in Vienna," he told the students. They then clapped right on time and were commended by the conductor for "doing a really excellent job."

The woodwind section performed "The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down" and when LaGroth referred to it as the "Bugs Bunny" cartoon song, the kids cheered. The bassoon player drew "oohs" and "ahhs" from the kids when he stood and showed them the instrument, prompting LaGroth to say: "Who knew the bassoon could be hip?"

The brass section followed with the "Flintstones" theme (another crowd pleaser). A medley of songs from Disney movies led into a short duet by the drummer and percussionist.

The saxophone section ended the demonstration part of the program with "Merrily We Roll Along" from the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

After a short lesson from LaGroth ("  ‘one’ is up, ‘two’ is down"), they each took a crack at conducting and did very well indeed.

The program closed with "Jingle Bells Forever," a parody of John Phillip Sousa’s "Stars and Stripes Forever."

After the performance, LaGroth talked about why he’s dedicated to bringing live music into the schools and maybe inspir­ing a few of them to pick up instruments and start playing.

"Music encompasses so many disci­plines," he said. "Math, history, team­work in a group setting. Plus, it’s a non­competitive environment. In a way, your only competition is yourself. It really helps kids bring out the best in them­selves."

When asked to name the best part of performing for young people, LaGroth an­swered instantly.

"Their reaction," he said. "You can see how much they like what they’re hear­ing."

First-grader Samantha Streckfuss said she enjoyed the show.

"Everything was really neat," she said. "I liked the drums the best."