The Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra will be performing their first spring concert March 16 at 8 p.m. and March 17 at 3 p.m. The concert will include performances by two of the concerto winners and the Hillsdale College Chamber Choir.
As is typical with March concerts, the orchestra is playing more modern pieces.
The orchestra will perform “Prelude to Die Meistersinger” by Richard Wagner, “Concerto No. 2 for Cello and Orchestra” by Dmitri Kabalevsky, featuring junior Ellen Roundey on the cello, “Concerto No. 2 in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra” by Henri Wieniawski, which will feature junior Ryne Bessmer on the violin, “Two Portraits” by Bela Bartok, and “New England Triptych” by William Schuman.
“October has Parent’s Weekend and May draws the families for graduation, so March is the optimal time to play more diverse compositions,” said Associate Professor of Music James Holleman. “The Bartok, the Schuman both are more obscure modern pieces, and thankfully the the Kabalevsky also falls into that perfectly.”
Though many members of the orchestra were initially reluctant to play certain parts of the concert’s non-traditional repertoire, Holelman said the ongoing practice and the fruits of their labors have begun to show.
“The 20th century composers are hard because their harmonies and melodies are not what we are used to, and the pieces can be very technically involved,” he said. “Especially in the Schuman the differences are visible, as the original compositions were so raw, an adaption of William Billy’s colonial music, who could be considered America’s first composer.”
While the modern music increases the overall challenge of many of the pieces, the choices in the repertoire allow for more attention to be drawn to less frequently featured pieces such as the harp and the violas.
“I really like the pieces, I know that it is more modern than we are used to, but I really like them,” said senior violist Jennifer Franklund. “I think that they are really beautiful and they’re more complex and challenging than we are used to. Also, the viola parts tend to be pretty simplistic and I really like having something to practice.”
Senior Jill Buccola, who plays the french horn, noted that this concert featured quite a few places with two harps playing at the same time.
“It’s a weird concert, but I am coming to like even the pieces that I didn’t that much originally,” she said. “I am beginning to love the melodies, and the piece with the chamber choir is beginning to seem really cool.”
Senior Kokko Tso is the concert master for this performance.
“I think the pieces for this concert are interesting,” he said. “They are outside of our normal comfort zones. The whole concert seems a bit heavy on the brass and woodwinds, and I think it is really cool the harps get to play more often.”
The Schuman piece in the concert is especially unusual because prior to each movement, the chamber choir will sing the original composition.
“For the ‘New England Triptych,’ I am going to have the chamber choir sing through the choral settings before each movement because each movement is a variation from one of these original settings,” Holleman said. “Hearing these helps the listener to understand what it is an adaption off of, and it helps to tie it all together and makes sense of it to the audience.”
The first two winners of the Concerto Competition, Roundey and Bessmer, also will perform, accompanied by the full orchestra.
“Ellen’s concerto, the Kabalevsky, is awesome! I also have a thing for works of dead Russians, and he is indeed a dead Russian.” Franklund said. “I also really like the Wieniawski concerto that Ryne is playing because it is very melodic and bombastic and patriotic in a way. It is just really fun to play.”