Symphony commemorates historic events with impeccable performance
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 00:10
A full house enjoyed a performance of the Symphony Orchestra Thursday night at Von der Mehden Recital Hall, which features music that commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address Emancipation Proclamation and the Protestant Reformation.
Students, faculty and parents trickled into the recital hall as early as an hour before the show and continued to come in even after the performance started. In the overcrowded house, audience members were standing and sitting at the back of the hall waiting patiently.
The show began quickly, the seats on stage filling up with musicians before conductor Harvey Felder took his place in the front of the orchestra. Felder is currently the Music Director of the Tacoma Symphony. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1991 during the “Carnegie Hall at 100” celebration, leading the American Symphony Orchestra. Felder has many credentials in the music field and on Thursday night he led the Symphony Orchestra through two pieces.
Felder described the first piece, “Don Quixote, Suite for the String Orchestra” by Georg Philipp Telemann, as “vivid and dramatic.” The piece follows almost a sarcastic type of style, he explained, capturing the essence of the story of Don Quixote. This includes Quixote’s adventures, his awakening and even his epic battle against the windmills.
The song followed exactly that description, with the Overture embodying Quixote’s adventures before waking up from his dreams. In the second movement, “Awakening of Don Quixote,” the music was dreamy, flowing gently. This was followed by an excited movement of rapid succession of escalating notes and staccato – “His Attack on the Windmill.”
Chatter and the tuning of instruments, along with the movement of people on and off stage filled the auditorium with a jumbled variety of noises, soon overcome by the beginning of the orchestra’s next song. Before the second song, Lincoln Portrait by Aaron Copland, Felder gave a brief description of the history behind the music. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address and the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in January.
“Thus forever changing America,” Felder said. “We started a new journey, a new path toward equality for all who inhabited this country.”
Felder noted how the song aimed to capture the words of Abraham Lincoln, and would feature a narrative reading by Scott Ripley, Professor of the Dramatic Arts, at the end.
The song begins softly, flute and horns imitating patriotic sounds that evoked feelings of peace rather than war. Dramatic and high-pitched violins and violas were added, accompanied by the booming of woodwind instruments in the back and loud drum beats. Ripley made his way to the front of the orchestra toward the end of the song, speaking while instruments hummed in the background, and in periods not marked by speech, the orchestra burst out in explosive notes after parts that spoke of saving the country.
After the intermission, graduate student director Paul McShee conducted “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland, which began with the pounding of drums and cymbals, and the flaring of trumpet horns. Before the last song, a member of the orchestra invited the audience to a reception in the music building after the show.
The orchestra finished with a song dedicated to the Reformation, one that encompassed the feelings of Martin Luther and his concern for the future of his faith and religion. It captures the historical events of the Reformation and features a common thread of two ideas fighting. Felder described each part of the song: how the Catholic section of the song begins strong while the Protestant side eventually gains volume and stands in equality eventually. Influenced by Bach, the composer featured the sounds of Germany and Northern Europe. Felder thanked everyone for coming and invited the audience to the Orchestra’s concert in December which will feature works from visionaries, heroes and dreamers, including Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.