Unsung heroes below the stage floor

Avery Hamlin, Memorial Staff Writer

Loads of work goes into a musical as raved about as Memorial’s production of Mary Poppins. All sorts of crews work backstage to make sure the set and costumes are perfect and the cast works hours on end to perfect their lines, songs and dances, but what lies under the stage?

The heard, but not seen pit orchestra conducted by David Koehn works below the stage to ensure the cast has a wonderful sound to perform with.

“We have to be able to make quick changes and adjust to the actors which makes performing in the pit so difficult,” said junior band member Megan Wildman. “Pit helped me develop advanced musical skills that I could never have learned without it.”

Due to the weather this year, the pit lost a lot of rehearsal time. Therefore, they had to work extra hard during the rehearsals they were able to attend. Before the full run-through, the orchestra had one rehearsal with the cast and soon after had to perform with acting and dancing added into the mix.

“I was very nervous to perform the first night because we had been deprived of rehearsal due to snow days,” Wildman said. “However, we pulled together an amazing show after hours of made up rehearsals.”

Koehn has been conducting for 12 years at Memorial and has spent plenty of time in the pit. Being stuck under the stage can be boring for some, but the members and Koehn always find a way to spice it up.

“It is a little disappointing that we can not actually see the show, but all the pit people keep each other company and Koehn joins in on as much of the inside jokes and fun as he can,” said senior orchestra member Hope Suttles. “This year we kept a lot of snacks down there too. It is a real party.”

The pit spends 12 hours rehearsing prior to the show, which is a significantly shorter amount of time to grasp a full musical score rather than working in a class everyday on the same pieces. The contrast between pit orchestra and class is quite extreme, considering the amount of difficulty added.

“In the pit orchestra it is different from anywhere we teach, because you can’t see what is going on and the music is usually very difficult, much faster, multiple keys and lots of changes,” Koehn said. “They have to vary stuff with things they cannot see, so their only contact to the people on stage is me.”

The amount of dedication and work put into the orchestra by those students is what makes the pit so great to be apart of. Each kid has a passion for what they do and tries to express it through their performance. The life of a pit member may be filled with elbows, darkness and claustrophobia, but they recognize it’s all worth it in the end as they watch their hard work come to life underneath the stage floor.

Contact Avery Hamlin at [email protected].