PASSING IT ON

A Far Cry is an unusual orchestra, to say the least, but they're becoming less so all the time. Conductorless orchestras are springing up nationwide: in Houston, in Phoenix, in Augusta, GA, in Washington, DC. And when a conductor cancelled on the Boston Symphony Orchestra last month, they played conductorless — and standing.

There are challenges coming for A Far Cry, though, and they know it. They're also all hovering around 30, and, as Irons says, they're in a race against the responsibilities of adulthood.

"I have a mortgage, Liza [Zurlinden, a violinist] has a baby, everyone's getting married — it's that time," Irons says. "So financially, logistically, we have to get the pay to the point that people aren't forced to leave."

It's something they've talked about as a group: how to make the orchestra sustainable, how to manage not to abandon this experiment, how to let it grow.

"We have to keep on keeping on," says Irons. "We have to not kill each other. We have to not all leave the group at once for safer paychecks. We have to stick with it and think big and — and I believe if we do, we'll be able to retire from this group someday, you know? And it will be full of twenty- and thirtysomethings who are ridiculously energetic and awesome and want to pass it on — want it to outlast us."

"It will be sustainable. It's going to work," Darling says. "The question in my mind is how we stay on a firm upward trajectory — how we as a group keep transcending our own limits."

As for Lee — his temper broke up a quartet, and he doesn't want that to happen again. "The most important thing in your life you can end up pushing away," he says. "But secretly it's the thing in your life you love the most."  

A SINGLE POINT

There's this sound, when 17 musicians are crammed into a small room, all warming up at once: cacophony. It's as if the music to come — or at least, all the hardest bits of it — has been compacted into a single point, overlapping and jarring.

There's no signal, but suddenly everyone falls silent; it's time to tune, which musicians call "taking the A." In the quiet, Unterman plays a long steady note — an A, exactly 440 Hz — on his cello, and one by one the others join in, tuning their instruments to his, an octave above and below, 17 minds thinking the same thing, tuned to the same sound.

S.I. Rosenbaum can be reached at srosenbaum@phx.com.

HEAR A FAR CRY AT JORDAN HALL | FEBRUARY 24 | 8 PM | 30 GAINSBOROUGH ST, BOSTON | 617.585.1260

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