Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
On Saturday, September 6, five Swarthmore music students performed with Broken Social Scene on the LPAC stage for the Large Scale Event.
Junior Carl Shapiro, a trumpet player, was approached in the music library by a member of the LSE committee and was asked whether he could assemble a horn section to play with Broken Social Scene in the concert that evening, only five hours away. At every college it performs, the band likes to play with a few horn students from the school. At first, Shapiro was “hesitant,” however he agreed and quickly brought in senior Marc Engel, senior Jeffrey Santner, junior Hannah Epstein, and junior David Burgy to play with him.
Epstein, a saxophone player, was visiting for the weekend before leaving as part of a program to go to Paris and did not even have an instrument with her. “I got called around 4 PM on Saturday and I was excited to play with the band. I had to call a bunch of people to borrow a sax and I actually ended up playing alto, which is a smaller saxophone than the one I normally play”.
Once assembled, the group was given little time to prepare. They met with a few members of Broken Social Scene at 7:30, a half-hour before the show, and learned four songs by ear. Though the riffs were not difficult, the lack of sheet music made it a challenge. “You just had to hear it and figure out what it was,” said Shapiro.
Throughout this, the band was very helpful. “[They] were incredibly friendly, positive, and they seemed genuinely happy to have us play with them,” said Epstein. “They were very laid back,” added Shapiro.
When it came time to play the show, the section was given little instruction as to how the concert would proceed. As they walked through LPAC towards the stage they were told to play any note in a specific key and hold it, which created an interesting effect and added an element of improvisation to the show.
Once onstage, the group just waited to be told when to play. “It was kind of just ‘okay, we’re going to play now’ and then we played,” said Shapiro, “I didn’t have to think about it.”
In between songs the section waited behind the curtain and even learned some more material for the concert. “We learned some new horn parts backstage during a song and came out about 30 seconds after we learned it, which was my favorite part,” said Epstein.
The rock setting and large, energetic crowd seemed to impress the Swarthmore musicians the most. “I’ve never played in that setting before, it was exhilarating,” said Shapiro.
Santner shared similar sentiments about the entire experience. “Being on stage was great – it’s definitely the biggest and most excited audience I’ve ever been in front of. I may never play in front of that many people again, so it was a big moment in my musical life.”
The show was well received and Broken Social Scene gained many new fans, both from the audience and on stage. Noted Epstein, “Sitting in Paris now, I almost cannot believe that I played with them a week ago. I would definitely go to another one of their concerts when I get back home.”