With a little help from my strings

By By Chase Dickerson

By Chase Dickerson

The Libby Gardner Concert Hall presentation began with a hum of strings, an occasional note or two from the trumpet and clarinet, and a repetitive clatter from the percussion corner as the young musicians took their places. For those who arrived early, all that could be heard for those five minutes before showtime was just a senseless jumble of random tunes and inadvertent noises. Every instrument played out of sync with one another and there appeared to be no relevant pattern at all in what they played.

It wasn’t until concertmaster Matthew Nelson appeared that some sort of structure befell the orchestra. After playing a single note on his violin in unison with the other string instruments, he took his seat. Silence then struck the concert hall in an instance; the conductor, Robert Baldwin, had emerged.

After a bit of applause, Baldwin was on his stand before the collection of students, baton in hand. Seconds later the entire room was overcome by Georges Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne Suite No. 2.” What an improvement it was to go from complete anarchy to total harmony!

However, there were a few niches in need of improvement. “Pastorale,” the first movement of the night, was noticeably shaky at first to the intermediate listener. Timing of the notes was a bit of an issue for the players. The conductor did take a moment before Giacomo Meyerbeer’s “Coronation March” to make note of the fact that the musicians there that night were the youngest of the U’s players.

That would account for those spots during the performance that felt lacking, but Baldwin was mindful to reassure the audience that all the students are truly wonderful musicians, and they are. That notion held true as the group moved to the third and fourth movements with their skills certainly beginning to shine through.

Harpist Kate Langeland stood out as an impressive performer to many as she beautifully played her part during “Menuetto.” The flute and violin sections also began to liven up at this time.

What was interesting to watch, though, was when it came time for Ludwig van Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont, op. 84: Baldwin, the opening conductor, had disappeared as he normally would between each piece.

When he was supposed to return, a new face had taken his place. Jong-Hun Bae, a graduate student conductor, was given the opportunity to lead the orchestra for this one piece, and it was certainly intriguing to note the differences between the two conductors.

For instance, it was felt that Bae had a more vibrant and exhilarated attitude toward conducting. The way his arms and body moved as he directed the students to a magnificent finish was simply exciting.

The musicians seemed to respond to him in turn. Though it can’t be denied that Baldwin has more skill at his disposal than Bae, he didn’t conduct with as much enthusiasm.

Closing up the night, the orchestra finished with Modeste Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”

The primary theme of this piece should be familiar to most of you, but if you can’t remember it, don’t fret; you can always buy the CD in stores, or just watch Fantasia again. The piece was played remarkably well and was powerful in its entirety.

Regardless of any downfalls, the performance was a definite success. The students were able to give their family and friends some memorable moments of music that will enrich their lives forever.

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