November 19 marked the return of the Fall Student Orchestra concert. It took place at 8 pm in Marshall Auditorium, next door to Jaharis, the newly built music building. It was a chilly, breezy autumn day, and the atmosphere of the auditorium beckoned as ushers greeted the performance-goers with brochures of the program. As the bottom and balcony seats filled up, a tripod camera on the upper level fixated on the stage to capture the moment, and the members of the orchestra, dressed in black, tuned their instruments and warmed up for the performance.
Before long, Bi-College Orchestra director Heidi Jacob stepped onto the stage, welcoming the audience to the recital hall. The first piece on the program, Beethoven’s Overture to the Consecration of the House, Op. 24, originally dedicated to the Josefstadt Theater in Vienna, was a fitting celebration of the sleek, glass-walled building. The stately piece was met with enthusiastic applause by the audience.
The next piece on the program was Tan Dun’s Passacaglia: Secret of the Wind and Birds. Dun was a Chinese-American composer who lived through the Cultural Revolution and brought his background and innovative style to bear on his music. The piece was complemented by Andrew Walder’s lecture on China’s factional warfare in the 1960s that took place earlier this month. The piece featured startling glissandos and intended to capture the mysteries of nature, especially birdsong; Passacaglia included innovative and unconventional techniques. This included recorded bird chirping from cell phones, performers using the wooden bodies of their instruments percussively with their hands or bows, harp interludes, and a special water-filled whistle that was meant to imitate warbling. The beautiful and evocative piece was met with a standing ovation.
The final piece was Smetana’s “The Moldau” from Ma Vlast: My Fatherland. This pretty piece featured tricky runs for the string players, who nevertheless brought the piece to life. It richly depicted the Czech landscape it was intended to evoke, and this third piece was also met with a standing ovation.
Audience members lingered to stand and clap for the orchestra, which bowed before exiting the stage. It was a stunning way to conclude the orchestra’s labors for the fall semester and ring in the new music building.