Hundreds of FHC string players perform in 32nd annual Spring String Fling

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Ally Stapleton, Editor in Chief

The symphony and concert orchestras from FHC joined forces with the 6th, 7th, and 8th grade orchestras from Central Woodlands and Central Middle on Tuesday night for their annual Spring String Fling, a musical extravaganza which took the audience on a tour through the various levels of musical skill which are developed in each year of the Forest Hills Central string program. The concert drew a full crowd to the Fine Arts Center and was deemed a success by several participants.

“I think it went really well, better than any in the past,” said senior Ryan Mulder, who plays the viola in symphony orchestra. “I like how every grade plays [at the Spring String Fling] so you get to see how the players progress, how everyone gets better.”

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The Spring String Fling, which features several songs from each orchestra, has been a tradition since 1984, when inclement weather forced a concert to be cancelled. As conflicts arose in the attempt to reschedule, the orchestra director at the time decided to hold a combined spring concert for all three schools. Thus was born the Spring String Fling: the community event has continued for the past 32 years without interruption, driven by the unexpected success of that first accidental concert in 1984.

“There was such a nice feeling of camaraderie and unity in the group [at the first Spring String Fling]… that it became part of tradition and was repeated every year,” said Andrew Pool, who serves as the director for the 7th and 8th grade orchestras as well as both high school groups. “Not always because of weather, but just because it’s fun.”

Pool expanded upon the more casual atmosphere lent to the concert by its celebratory nature and its spontaneous beginnings.

“That’s why we don’t wear uniforms for this concert; it is not a formal concert in a normal performance sense,” Pool explained. “Instead it’s about sharing music, and because we have so many people involved now we share it with the audience as well.”

The inaugural Spring String Fling featured fewer musicians between the five groups combined than currently play in the Concert orchestra alone. As FHC’s string program has grown to involve more than 300 students, the concert has lived on, providing an opportunity for younger students to listen to and play with their more experienced musical counterparts from the high school. As the musicians make their way from sixth grade to twelfth grade, the Spring String Fling provides a yearly reminder of where they came from and where they are going. After Tuesday’s performance, several seniors reflected on their own Spring String Fling memories.

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“It’s weird to see how when I was little I used to look at the symphony and I’d be like ‘oh my gosh, I can’t wait to be that,’ and now I’m in Symphony,” said senior and violinist Bridget O’Connell.

Mulder also remembers looking up to the symphony orchestra when he first began his musical career.

“I remember in 6th grade [the concert] was way too long and the stage was really hot at the end,” Mulder said. “But the high school was really good and I wanted to be them.”

A tradition itself, the Spring String Fling has its own tradition-within-a-tradition in the form of the concert’s grand finale. Each year, the graduating seniors select a song that they played in 6th grade and are given the opportunity to, in Pool’s words, “relive it once more” by joining all the other groups on stage at once and performing their selection as a large ensemble. This year’s finale was “At the Grasshopper Ball.”

“I just remember Grasshopper Ball being my favorite piece because I thought we sounded incredible when we played it when I was little,” O’Connell said.

Mulder also enjoyed the song in sixth grade, and “fought really hard” to have it played at his last Spring String Fling.

“Some seniors didn’t want to play it, but I made sure it was played,” Mulder said.

Though the concert poses some logistical challenges (“The most difficult thing is getting kids up and off the stage,” Pool said), tradition carries on each year and the Forest Hills Central Orchestra program brings hundreds of students and their families to the Fine Arts Center to be a part of the Spring String Fling. 32 years after its accidental initiation, the Spring String Fling has become a centerpiece of the orchestra program. Today’s students and directors are doing their best to preserve that tradition.

“I think traditions around Forest Hills Central are very important to the culture of our school, and certainly the orchestra program has its own tradition,” Pool said. “We do our best to uphold that.”