What makes RCE so special isn’t the fact that it doesn’t have a conductor, but that it focuses on the point of music, which is communication with people.
— George Ko '15, President Emeritus of the Harvard College Piano Society

All photography provided by Alex Pong and Winnie Wu of Harvard College.

The River Charles Ensemble at Harvard has transformed from a thirteen-musician chamber ensemble to a full-sized conductor-less chamber orchestra that rivals the work ethic, innovative potential, and performance creativity of conservatory orchestras in the United States.

About the Orchestra

Known for its versatility and vitality, the River Charles Ensemble performs to consistently excited audiences in some of the most beautiful performance spaces on the Harvard University campus. An ensemble with musicians from a diverse range of backgrounds, RCE is a resident orchestra of Paine Hall in the Harvard Music Department. The RCE is modeled after the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra of New York and aims to perform at a high level by developing leadership and collaboration techniques amongst all musicians in the ensemble.

In the spirit of beautiful music-making, RCE is, perhaps, one of the only university-resident orchestras featuring a collaborative effort of student musicians mainly from Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Boston Conservatory, and the New England Conservatory. In the past, the orchestra has received generous guidance from internationally acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble as well as an endorsement from the world-renowned conductor Yu Long of the Beijing Music Festival and the China Philharmonic.

The RCE orchestra is a music program for student musicians to develop as young artists, creative thinkers, and unique personalities. Without the presence of a conductor, each musician becomes a peer mentor, and the intensive work ethic has helped to raise the caliber of the orchestra with every performance. Many RCE musicians are also active members or alumni of other high-caliber and famous orchestras and institutions, including the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, the Perlman Music Program, the National YoungArts Foundation, and numerous conservatory programs.

The River Charles Ensemble is a proud partnering organization of the Harvard College Piano Society.


Previous Performances

2012-2013 “Inaugural Season” – Debut concert in Memorial Church with Mozart Symphony No.41 “Jupiter”; first commission for wind quintet arrangement of Ole Guapa to student John Lee ’16; formation of the RCE String Orchestra, debut in the second concert with Edward Elgar Introduction and Allegro for String Quartet and String Orchestra; first concert collaboration with the Harvard College Piano Society featuring Allen Yuan ’15 performing Beethoven Concerto No.5 “Emperor”; Harvard Office for the Arts invites RCE to collaborate with the Harvard Hasty Pudding Theatricals, economics professor Gregory Mankiw, and world-renown actor John Lithgow ’67 to launch Harvard ArtsFirst Festival 2013; RCE performs Dvorak Silent Woods with Alan Toda-Ambaras ’13 in Sanders Theatre.

2013-2014 – Opening concert in Memorial Church begins with Mozart Overture to Idomeneo and features Sergei Prokofiev Symphony No.1 “Classical”; RCE String Orchestra returns with Grieg Holberg Suite, rearranged with solos from every member of the orchestra; first collaboration between RCE and the Harvard University Choir, performing Benjamin Britten’s St. Nicolas in celebration of Britten’s centennial at Memorial Church; Sanders Theatre full program debut concert featuring Beethoven Symphony No.4 and Chopin Piano Concerto No.1 with soloist George Ko ’15, arrangements of Yearning a Spring Breeze 望春風(台灣名歌)by Max Tan ’15.

2014-2015 – Transition period into permanent residency in Paine Hall of the Harvard Music Department; season opening concert features the Adagietto movement from Mahler Symphony No.5, a commission for a contemporary orchestral work to Sam Wu '17, and Mozart Piano Concerto No.17 with Patrick Pan '18; establishment of a pilot Make Music! Chamber Music Workshop residency program in the Mather House Senior Common Room during Wintersession featuring four professional chamber concerts, including first musical recital event in the newly opened Harvard Art Museums, a lecture-performance on Art and Medicine presented by Dr. Lisa Wong, and two domestic tours in 2015 to Princeton University and the Harvard Club of New York; Harvard Office for the Arts invites RCE to collaborate with the Harvard Hasty Pudding Theatricals, the Harvard Ballet Company, Harvard College Deans Rakesh Khurana and Tom Dingman, and Professors Steven Pinker and Diana Eck to launch Harvard ArtsFirst Festival 2015 in a performance of Swan Lake: For the Birds!