GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The second virtual offering of the Civic Symphony of Green Bay offers something seldom performed publicly in this region, a violin duet.

Because its in-person concerts have been cut off by the coronavirus COVID-19, the orchestra is producing a series that not only includes performances but introduces individual players, who talk on a topic.

The latest is at this link:

A popular perception of “civic orchestra” or “community orchestra,” is perhaps something like this: “Oh, they’re a bunch of amateurs who like to play classical music.” That is less and less the case in Northeastern Wisconsin.

In a weird way, the coronavirus has the Civic Symphony of Green Bay letting a cat out of the bag about a truer picture. Without the coronavirus there wouldn’t be offerings such as this.

This video teams Audrey Nowak and Luis Fernandez in a mirrored dance studio with good acoustics.

Audrey Nowak is concertmaster of the orchestra.

Additionally, she is director of orchestras at Bay Port High School in the Howard-Suamico School District and program manager of the St. Norbert College Youth Orchestra Program, additionally servicing as conductor of that organization’s string orchestra. Along with playing in the Civic Symphony of Green Bay, Audrey Nowak has been a member of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra and the Oshkosh Symphony Orchestra since 1990.

In the video, she says started playing violin at age 10.

“Ever since then for as long as I can remember, I have has played in an ensemble of some sort – until March of 2020, which is really sad. I really miss playing with my friends and colleagues, and I know they miss it, too.

“As I think about what I miss playing in an orchestra, I think there are so many levels and so many facets to it. For one thing, it is true we are all really good friends. Getting to go to work with people you really love is such a powerful thing. Sharing the same goal in playing our music and trying to get it all together to put on a good performance for our audience and hopefully take people away in their mind or in their hearts for a little while – that’s also really powerful.

Audrey Nowak next takes a turn in topics as she places the listener on stage.

“And then there’s the aspect of the sound vibrations that hit the stage. For instance, the first time I played harp – I’m also a harpist by the way – the first time I played harp in an orchestra I was seated between the cellos and the violas in the bass section, and I could not believe how different things felt on that side of the stage. Also, how they sounded so different. But the biggest part I remember is that vibration through the stage that went really through my body. It was so powerful because I was there with all of the low strings. As a violinist, I’m usually on the edge of the stage, which also has some very interesting and unique aspects to it. But you cannot feel the low vibrations physically as much from over there. So there’s that.

“And then there’s the individual aspects of playing with each person trying their very hardest. The unique things about musicians is that one passage that might be challenging for me might be like a breeze for someone sitting next to me, and vice versa, because depending on your physical makeup and what your strengths and weaknesses are as a player, it’s all different. And so often if you look up closely – at least in the violin section but I’m sure everywhere – once in a while we nudge each other like, ‘Yeah, we got through that. Good!’ Or we congratulate each other if someone just played a difficult passage for them really, really well.

“So I love that collaborative spirit that goes on, not just during concerts but all the time, during rehearsals and so forth. That’s an awesome thing. And I think just, again, that collective goal – it’s a really powerful thing. So I have missed it tremendously, and we are all looking forward to getting back to being together and playing some wonderful live music for you. Live music is very different than recorded music. It’s not always as good, granted, but it certainly is a lot more fun I think…”

She say she had “had a fun time” getting together with Luis Fernandez to play the Bach double violin concerto.

“Luis is a good friend of mine. We play together in a lot of orchestras, and this was a fun project for us.”

Luis Fernandez is principal second violin of the orchestra.

A native of Caracas, Venezeula, he arrived in the United States in 2000. He has a doctorate in instrumental performance from the University of Miami. He is a member of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Music faculty. Along with playing in the Civic Symphony of Green Bay, Luis Fernandez is a member of the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, Manitowoc Symphony Orchestra and Oshkosh Symphony and is concertmaster of the Weidner Philharmonic Orchestra at UWGB.

In the video, he says, “I have been missing playing in an orchestra. It always has been such a great experience to be able to play with other colleagues and make music in front of an audience.

“As well I have also enjoyed to play music in a small ensemble like a string quartet, which I will say is more demanding, in my point of view, obviously. You have truly to make music to a high quality. It’s not like in an orchestra you don’t play to a high quality; you have to, and you should. But in a string quartet… four parts, four musicians, the (unclear), the intonation, the musicality, they have to be really to the highest quality so they can have a really good result.

“When I’m learning new pieces, actually I try to avoid listening to a recording first so I can get my own ideas, even though it’s very difficult in these days it seems. I mean, I’m constantly listening to music, new music and always like to play something that I like and I have heard…

Also “I like to take music as a new book, you know, try to discover new things. I try to do some things that, if I’ve done the piece in the past, I might do differently now…. bring new ideas. I really enjoy to make music, and I really look forward to make music again with all my colleagues and friends.”


The work, with a few notes and thoughts:

+ “Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043” by Johann Sebastian Bach
   – I. Vivace

Airy, bright… the two trade off, she upper, he lower… aurally a musical tapestry; playing standing with mirror behind them; can see the microphone in the mirror; never have seen a performance in this format … confident elegance in playing… masked… both physically into the music with their whole bodies.
   – II. Largo ma non tanto. He opens dreamy and plaintively… she joins also slow and thoughtful… calming, like reflecting over a scene in nature on a beautiful day, perhaps with a butterfly lighted on a flower of every color in a rainbow… somewhat melancholy… a sweet byplay between the two… layers of emotion from the individual instruments… adept players.