Salisbury Symphony Orchestra
Holloway Hall

Education and Outreach

Salisbury Symphony Orchestra - Education & Outreach
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Asked Questions

Not-So-Frequently Asked Questions 

  1. What’s the difference between a trumpet and a cornet?
    The trumpet and cornet are nearly identical. The cornet may be distinguished by its more compact shape and more mellow tone quality because its tubing is more conically shaped (inside) than that of a trumpet. Both instruments have tubing of the exact same length (if straightened), however, the trumpet’s tubes are 2/3 cylindrical (straight bore) and 1/3 conical (expanding bore) while the cornet’s tubes are 2/3 conical and 1/3 straight. The cornet was most popular during the Civil War Era and into the early 20th century. There was even a brief debate about the need to replace orchestral trumpets with cornets, but the trumpets prevailed.
  2. When did female musicians begin to play in orchestras? Did some conductors allow them in earlier?
    Vivaldi conducted an orchestra of all women and girls, who were orphans. But depending on the area and country, women in orchestras were quite rare until after World War II. Even now, women in European orchestras number fewer than men. But in the United States the numbers are fairly even.

    Most modern orchestras (and bands) employed men almost exclusively on all instruments until the middle of the 20th century. During the 1960s, U.S. orchestras began adding women as positions became available. Still, it took awhile before women were hired in principal chairs or in the brass section. When Anne Martindale Williams joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra as Principal Cello in 1979, she made history. SSO conductor, Dr. Jeffrey Schoyen, later studied with Williams as a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University. The idea that women can lead an orchestra is now accepted and it is no longer uncommon to experience a performance by fine conductors such as Marin Alsop (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) or JoAnn Falletta. Nadia Boulanger became the first woman to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1936 followed by the Boston Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra and New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Interestingly Czech composer Antonin Dvorák conducted an all female orchestra in New York City shortly after the Los Angeles Woman’s Orchestra was founded in 1893.
  3. Conductors used to conduct from the harpsichord. When and why did they move to a podium?
    Conductors actually led from the violin as well. John Baptiste Lully was famous for leading by hitting his staff on the floor. He was so good at it he stabbed his foot and died of gangrene. With the advent of more complicated and virtuosic music (Beethoven for instance), the need for a conductor became greater. But relatively speaking, the job of “conductor” is quite new.

    Two examples of orchestras without conductors exist in New York City. One is the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra which is a Grammy Award-winning ensemble known for its collaborative style of rehearsing and performing. The other involves the New York Philharmonic Orchestra’s annual tribute to the late Leonard Bernstein. Whenever they perform his “Overture to Candide,” they do so without a conductor. The concertmaster stands and starts the orchestra at the beginning and once again near the end following a pause. This is a difficult piece to perform (even with a conductor) and they do so at a very brisk tempo!
  4. What’s the difference between a piano and a piano forte?
    The piano was invented around 1700 by an Italian instrument maker Bartolomeo Cristofori and is now over 300 years old. One of the most popular instruments in the world, it has many different sizes and shapes. When the piano was first invented, it was called the Fortepiano because it literally could play loud (forte) and soft (piano) sounds unlike the earlier keyboard instruments—the harpsichord and the clavichord. By the mid-nineteenth century, the piano lost the title of fortepiano and became known simply as the piano.

    For 200 years, instrument makers experimented with the size, shape and design of the piano. The piano grew to have more keys, increasing in size and sound. To create more depth in dynamics, piano makers began designing the casing out of iron for a louder effect. The piano was soon incorporated into orchestras, and quickly became a popular source of entertainment.
    Pianists were very much in vogue by the mid-19th century and were in demand much like rock stars are today. People came with flowers to attend concerts all over Europe and eventually the United States and many other parts of the world. One of the most famous early pianists was Franz Liszt, the first to perform music by memory. The piano has remained a popular instrument for children to study since the mid-18th century.
  5. The French horn is in the orchestra. What about the English horn? Is there an Italian or German horn?
    Instrument names are often misleading. Orchestral horns are descendants from “natural horns” (no valves) which evolved out of hunting horns. When valves were invented and added (around 1815) various adjectives were used to describe the type of valves or size of horn being used such as: French horn, Vienna horn or German horn. What we commonly refer to as a “French” horn in the United States and Canada is actually a German horn (slightly larger tubing bore with rotary valves that was developed in Germany). Since 1971, the International Horn Society has recommended simply using the term “horn.” Different size horns are used for different purposes such as Horn in F or Horn in E flat for example, which indicates the general pitch of the instrument. To further confuse people, there is also an “English” horn which has nothing to do with a brass instrument. The English horn belongs to the woodwind family (very similar to an oboe but larger and more mellow in tone) and its name resulted from misunderstood translations of cor anglais. This instrument was actually invented in Silesia but Germans referred to it as “engellisches horn” or angelic horn. Since “engellisch” also meant English during the early 16th century, the name was confused.
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