Although a feat in and of itself, the virtual format of the All-Town Orchestra Concert at times held it back

The Townwide Orchestra, Brookline Youth Orchestra and Brookline high school orchestra came together and  performed a variety of songs on Wednesday, March 24 over Zoom.


The Townwide Orchestra, Brookline Youth Orchestra and Brookline high school orchestra came together and performed a variety of songs on Wednesday, March 24 over Zoom.

Not one, two, or three, but five different orchestras from around Brookline came together and played a diverse set of songs on March 24. From sea shanties to mobile games to Romanian folk dances, although impressive, at times the concert and its music felt held back by its virtual setting.

Starting off the show was the Townwide Orchestra, playing the only Classical music piece of the night, “Processional” by Handel.

The first thing I noticed was how incredibly in sync it sounded. As anyone who has ever tried to sing Happy Birthday over Zoom knows, it is not easy to get music to sound even remotely together. Still, somehow, none of these pieces sounded off-beat, which would be impressive even if everyone were in a room together.

Unfortunately, this was also the first time that the nemesis of the concert would rear its pixelated head: sound compression. All of the pieces were screenshared from google drive, which means that the sound had to be compressed multiple times before leaving the average speakers of a laptop and entering the ears of the listener. This made me wish these performers played live, because there’s something about instrumental waves and acoustics that just can’t be expressed through a repetition of ones and zeros.

Playing the second piece of the night, “Flow My Tears,” the Brookline Youth Orchestra (BYO) performers were arranged in floating boxes that were much more interesting to look at than a basic Zoom layout. The piece was somber and beautiful, having aged well in its over 420 years since its origins in late Renaissance Europe.

Next, the Concert Orchestra took to the “stage.” Going off of the TikTok sea shanty craze of early ‘21, they embraced their New Englander heritage with the whaling song “Wellerman.” It was certainly a change of tone from the last piece, but who doesn’t love a good sea shanty? In any case, they took to the screen with a slideshow-like format, switching between videos of the students playing and pictures of whaling and merchant ships.

Sophomore Kelly Park performing the “Angry Birds” theme song.

In a rare case of Suomalainen (Finnish) representation, the Brookline High School Orchestra (BHSO) slingshotted its way into my heart with its creative “Angry Birds” theme. Many members of the cast had their photos bedazzled with drawings of benevolent birds and putrid pigs. It all matched the fun and vibrant nature of both the game and the piece of music. This is the generation that grew up with this game, and they absolutely did its theme justice.

Finally, the BYO and the high school’s Advanced Chamber Orchestra (ACO) worked together to perform various Romanian folk dances. The sound felt the least digital out of all of the songs, and apart from a few Zoom delays, this piece was the most fluid as well. As a result, it stood out in making it feel the most like a real concert.

This concert certainly demonstrated that this is an incredibly talented group of people, but sometimes it just isn’t possible to move that talent out of the place that it belongs without having to make a few unfortunate, but necessary, changes. Here’s to the next in-person concert. I look forward to seeing it.