Chamber Orchestra holds first live performance in two years


Lewis Baratz guided the Chamber Orchestra in their long-awaited return to in-person performances with a passion for live music and a wide array of musical influences. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette College)

By Isabella Gaglione, Contributing Writer

The sounds of excitement and strings buzzed through the main stage of the Williams Center this past Sunday as the Lafayette College Chamber Orchestra performed their first live concert since returning to campus post-pandemic. The ensemble played from a selection of Arcangelo Corelli, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach and 20th-century Belgian composer Willy Ostijn, transcending 300 years of musical influence. 

After the long hiatus, musicians and supporters alike were ready to experience live music again.

“It was a bit more emotionally charged because it had been, for our current students, two years since we had a performance on the Williams Center main stage, and even the first-years missed a great deal in high school. I think we were all very grateful that we reached a point where we were able to do this,” Director Lewis Baratz said.

Chamber Orchestra violist Shreya Suresh ‘25 missed the togetherness of live music.

“With music, it’s very personal. It’s all about emotion and feeling. When you’re listening to music live and creating it with other people live, you can kind of feel what other people are feeling, rather than having that experience be a solitary thing,” Suresh said.

Andrea Rivera Conte ‘23, who has played the bass since she was eight years old, is also excited to be performing in person again.

“Playing in an orchestra, bringing these beautiful pieces to life for an audience, is an integral part of how I view myself as a bassist. For ourselves, it’s refreshing to be back, and I think it is for audiences too,” Rivera said.

Preparation for the concert was a collaborative experience that began the second week of the fall semester. Most orchestras practice a hierarchical method of construction, with the conductor relaying information to section leaders to relay to their sections. Baratz chooses not to operate this way; instead, he gets the students involved.

“I see myself as more of a guide than a maestro. We will often discuss pieces and I’ll ask…‘what emotions are coming?’” Baratz explained. “I have this discussion to get people as vested stakeholders, and not just hiding behind a music stand and playing.”

This method of instruction has made an impact on the students.

“It felt like I had a voice and my opinion was valued,” Suresh said.

Suresh, who plans to pursue a dual degree in neuroscience and music, is not the only member of the orchestra working in an academic discipline outside of the field. In fact, the majority of the 21 students that make up the ensemble are working towards non-music majors. That diversity in academic interests is Baratz’s favorite part about conducting at Lafayette.

“The thing I find most intriguing and most satisfying for myself is the fact that our students are mostly non-music majors,” Baratz said. “They bring a real passion without competitiveness. They are doing this one hundred percent for enjoyment. That’s really, really refreshing and really, really rewarding.”

Rivera echoed this sentiment.

“The community we built around the orchestra is a very cool, very supportive group of people. Every week I look forward to seeing them and being able to play with them,” Rivera said.

Suresh and Rivera agreed that the best part of Sunday’s concert was playing the closing piece, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, with two special faculty guest artists and soloists.

“Learning from them while accompanying them was such an honor,” Suresh said of playing with the faculty members.

For Rivera, this concert was a symbol of hope.

“It shows that we are moving forward…things are scary, but music and art and beauty still persevere,” Rivera said.

The Chamber Orchestra will begin practicing for their next concert at the beginning of the spring semester. Interested students should contact Lewis Baratz at [email protected].