orchestra


orchestra

noun

  1. a group of performers on various musical instruments, including especially stringed instruments of the viol class, clarinets and flutes, cornets and trombones, drums, and cymbals, for playing music, as symphonies, operas, popular music, or other compositions.
  2. (in a modern theater)
    1. the space reserved for the musicians, usually the front part of the main floor (orchestra pit).
    2. the entire main-floor space for spectators.
    3. the parquet.
  3. (in the ancient Greek theater) the circular space in front of the stage, allotted to the chorus.
  4. (in the Roman theater) a similar space reserved for persons of distinction.

noun

  1. a large group of musicians, esp one whose members play a variety of different instrumentsSee also symphony orchestra, string orchestra, chamber orchestra
  2. a group of musicians, each playing the same type of instrumenta balalaika orchestra
  3. Also called: orchestra pit the space reserved for musicians in a theatre, immediately in front of or under the stage
  4. mainly US and Canadian the stalls in a theatre
  5. (in the ancient Greek theatre) the semicircular space in front of the stage

n.c.1600, “area in an ancient theater for the chorus,” from Latin orchestra, from Greek orkhestra, semicircular space where the chorus of dancers performed, with suffix -tra denoting place + orkheisthai “to dance,” intensive of erkhesthai “to go, come,” from PIE *ergh- “to set in motion, stir up, raise” (cf. Sanskrit rghayati “trembles, rages, raves,” rnoti “rises, moves,” arnah “welling stream;” Old Persian rasatiy “he comes;” Greek ornynai “to rouse, start;” Latin oriri “to rise,” origo “a beginning;” Gothic rinnan, Old English irnan “to flow, run”). In ancient Rome, it referred to the place in the theater reserved for senators and other dignitaries. Meaning “group of musicians performing at a concert, opera, etc.” first recorded 1720; “part of theater in front of the stage” is from 1768. A group of musicians who play together on a variety of instruments, which usually come from all four instrument families — brass, percussion, strings, and woodwinds. A typical symphony orchestra is made up of more than ninety musicians. Most orchestras, unlike chamber music groups, have more than one musician playing each musical part.

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