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The Preparation Waltz: Nutcracker Preview
Khanh Nguyen '23 Associate Editor
November 18, 2021

’Tis the season where the annual Nutcracker Showcase brings the angels, vintage toys, and sugarspun palace to life. An occasion like this always fills the Deerfield atmosphere with its most memorable highlights: Tchaikovsky’s joyous repertoire complemented by the graceful performance of Deerfield dancers and the Deerfield Chorus. This year, the production will consist of a major collaboration between Deerfield’s orchestra, chorus, and dance departments. The beauty of Deerfield’s music and dance transport the community to the magical world of the Nutcracker and this collaboration requires tremendous efforts from all of those involved.

Credit: Jackson Collins

When discussing the orchestra’s involvement with the Nutcracker production, Director of Music Thomas Bergeron emphasized, “The Orchestra has been preparing since day one of this year. It’s a huge undertaking for us, as the repertoire is extremely difficult and requires advanced technique from every musician.” 

Mr. Bergeron said that, once the choir began rehearsing with the orchestra, the focus shifted to ensuring a careful balance between the sound of the 55 member orchestra and the 20-25 member choir.

The Nutcracker is mostly orchestral material; however, for one of the movements the chorus is participating in, there is a treble chorus, which is composed of sopranos and altos. 

Choral Director Michael Pfitzer said, “Everybody is extremely busy with their individual obligations, so we practice really hard and try to prepare for anything that might happen.When you’re collaborating with another group, you just want to be totally prepared and really flexible in case someone asks you to do something slightly different. […] Right now, we practice singing our piece at a really fast tempo and a really slow tempo, because we didn’t know entirely what the orchestra needed, and the orchestra doesn’t know exactly what we need when we start rehearsals.”

In regards to the orchestra’s collaboration with the dance program, Mr. Bergeron mentioned, “Dancers are starting to come into orchestra rehearsals to get a sense for the tempo, and provide feedback of whether the speed is too fast or too slow. […] It’s really important that the music the orchestra produces compliments the speed [of] the dancers. […] We need to provide them ample time for every jump and every move, so we need to make sure our tempo matches their expectations.”

Lily Thomas ’23, a dancer, reflected on her preparation process, saying, “I have been rehearsing every day to keep my stamina. I know there’s a lot of tough roles this year […] the Nutcracker has been more of an individual project for all of us.” 

Thomas added, “I am the Sugar  Plum Fairy, and I’ve always been waiting for this role for the 13 years that I’ve performed the Nutcracker. I know it’s been very difficult for many of us to find the time to rehearse, but we know that our efforts will eventually be worth it.”

Credit: Jackson Collins

Mr. Bergeron gave us a preview of the Nutcracker Showcase: “In terms of what to expect, the event will take place in the large auditorium, and it will be about an hour long production. We are performing all the music from the second act and some music from the first act. If you’re familiar with The Nutcracker, there are smaller dances that are all based on treats like marzipan, coffee, tea, peppermint, and so we’ll have all of those treats to actually enjoy at the reception afterwards. Right as people are leaving the auditorium to the lobby afterwards, they will be provided with all these tasty treats, and the vocal program will put on a concert of holiday music.” 

In particular, he described the Waltz of the Snowflakes, which “will feature the chorus singing this beautiful melody with just an “ahh” syllable, and they sing this kind of floaty melody over the orchestra. We’re thinking of having the choir sing four different times in the movement, and we’re thinking of each time the choir comes in having actual snow falling.”

Thomas said, “I think the fact that we’re collaborating with the orchestra makes it even more magical and fulfilling. It’s an experience that is annually looked forward to during the Holiday season, but this one is going to be extra special.”

Mr. Bergeron said that the performance aims for “a celebration of the Performing Arts centered around this sort of quintessential work of ballet.” He emphasized that a 55-piece live orchestra, as opposed to a recording, “paired with the ballerinas on stage, yields a different experience, and many will feel it from the vibrations and energy of the live music. It is really going to be special, and it’s really how the piece was meant to be experienced.

Mr. Bergeron continued, “[The performance also serves as a] precursor to the collaboration between orchestra and theater later in the year for the spring musical production. It is a great example of the performing arts of Deerfield coming together and showing that when we do produce something together, we can produce something greater than what we’re able to do separately.”