Where No Musician Has Gone Before
The Stanford Laptop Orchestra is the first ensemble to perform under the roof of Stanford's Bing Concert Hall. Mind the nail guns.
Courtesy Ennead Architects
By Sam Scott
Bing Concert Hall promises to be a world-class cultural magnet when it opens in January amid celebrations led by the San Francisco Symphony and St. Lawrence String Quartet. For now, though, it remains a construction site still months from completion.
But that didn’t stop the Stanford Laptop Orchestra from recently staking a small spot in University history as the first act to play the hall, albeit under slightly dusty circumstances.
SLOrk, as the 4-year-old orchestra is known, performs and composes much of its music on laptops. They arrived at the site June 8 to find a waiting bucket of safety vests, hard hats and goggles, all required for entry. “That was our first warning,” said Hunter McCurry, MA ’12, a member of SLOrk. “It was like ‘You’re on a construction site. These need to be on your body for the duration that you’re here.’”
Goggles or not, it was easy to get into a performance mindset, he said. Even with rough edges all around the temporary stage, the majesty of the new space was apparent. “It just has this really grand feel to it,” McCurry says. “The ceiling looked amazing.”
The orchestra performed five pieces, closing with “Muted Voices,” in which McCurry solos on violin while the others wave video-game hand sensors to play back recordings of him.
In their safety gear, the musicians were a mirror image of their audience—mainly construction workers on break, many of them recording the performance on their phones. The workers gave hearty applause at the end of each piece.
Since construction began on Bing in May 2010, three other small performances have marked completion of a milestone in the project, an idea stemming from Peter Bing, ’55. Bing and his wife, Helen, are the project’s major benefactors.
“Peter Bing suggested that we engage the workers in the campus community as they build this wonderful building,” said project manager Maggie Burgett, ’76. “Bringing music to them is one way to do it.”
The earlier concerts by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford Taiko and Mariachi Cardenal were outside, however—leaving SLOrk to go where no musician had gone before.
“It was just a really nice feather in our cap that we managed to get in there and do that performance,” McCurry says. “I take infinite amusement in that fact and definitely some pride.”
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Data is from the past two weeks.