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Orchestra Set-Up

Seating Arrangements
There are several accepted arrangements for symphony orchestra seating; however, the first violins are always to the conductor's left and the percussion usually in the back of the orchestra. The positions of the other instruments vary frequently depending on a conductor's preferences and the acoustical qualities of the given performance space.

Generally, a full symphony orchestra has 75 to 90 members (sometimes smaller for Baroque- and Classical-period works, and sometimes larger for late-Romantic, 20th or 21st century works). An orchestra is comprised of four sections: String Section - the largest group of the orchestra, with approximately 14 first violins, 12 second violins, 10 violas, 8 cellos, and 8 double basses; Woodwinds - piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon; Brass - 4 French horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba; Harps - 1 or 2; Percussion - timpani or kettledrums, bass and side drum, glockenspiel, triangle, cymbals, etc.

The use of certain instruments vary depending on the composer's orchestration and the conductor's interpretive decisions; certain compositions require additional instruments (according to the composer's orchestration), such as additional French horns, a saxophone, supplementary percussion, a piano (not as a solo instrument; referred to as orchestral piano), an organ, etc. Similarly, the composer may specify fewer standard instruments than are normally utilized.

The "first-chair" violinist (to the conductor's immediate left) is the instrumental leader of an orchestra and a vital liaison between the conductor and musicians. Juliana Athayde is the current concertmaster of the RPO.

Principal Player
The lead player of each orchestral section who guides the section and performs any solo parts written for their instrument.

Assistant Principal Player

The stand partner of the principal or concertmaster. Often times, assistant principals will be required to perform a solo along with a principal in an accompanimental or complimentary role; similarly, they must be prepared to perform the principal's roles if the principal is unexpectedly absent or unable to perform.

Section Player

Refers to all players not sitting in a principal or assistant principal chair.

Just before the concert begins, the orchestra tunes to the note "A" that is initially provided by the principal oboe and then matched by the concertmaster.



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