A Wall of Sound: OKC takes on Beethoven’s 9th as musical rebel

OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- Performers were showing up an hour before rehearsal.

The Canterbury Voices, two choirs from Oklahoma City University, and the full Philharmonic Orchestra crowded together on one stage for a rehearsal on a Thursday night.

At the podium, Oklahoma City's newest maestro, Alexander Mickelthwaite, who chose an iconic piece to perform at the start of the Fall concert season, Beethoven's 9th Symphony, practically a national anthem in his native Germany.

"It was performed right in front of the Brandenburg Gate during the time of the Cold War," says Mickelthwaite. "So it has a big, big meaning for Germans in general."

There are some challenges to bringing so many musicians together.

A precise German translation needed a little work for sopranos like Lexi Skaggs.

"Yeah," she agrees. "The schhhough sound you have to get in there. It's very hard to do that and then sing pretty."

The distance sound travels can even become an issue for a group that numbers into the hundreds front row to back, soloist to top of the risers.

"They're like 30 to 40 feet apart," estimates Mickelthwaite. "and we have to have everyone so tight together."

When Beethoven wrote this piece in the early 1820's he was already struggling with hearing loss.

That might be part of the reason this became his only symphony that made full use of a choir.

The effect, though, is amazing even for orchestra veterans like bassist Mark Osborn.

"I've played it several times," he says. "But every time is a brand new experience. It's really exciting."

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic chose musical rebels from three different eras for this concert.

Beethoven composed this to celebrate revolution and freedom.

Like other rebels both before and after, playing it loud enough to feel the sound really helps.

The Oklahoma City Philharmonic's performance of Beethoven's 9th and works from two other 'rebel' composers takes place Saturday, September 15, 2018, 8PM at the Civic Center Concert Hall.

For ticket information go to http://www.okcphil.org