As the semester draws to a close, many Swarthmore students will be studying hard for finals, group projects, and performances. What better time is there then for a stress-free break by seeing the Swarthmore College Orchestra’s Spring 2023 Concert? The performance will take place on Saturday, April 22nd in the Lang Concert Hall at 8 pm. This semester the ensemble will perform three pieces: Avril Coleridge-Taylor’s Sussex Landscape, François Borne’s Carmen: Fantaisie Brillante, and Antonín Dvořák’s full Symphony No. 8 in G Major. The concert will be held on April 22nd at 8 pm in the Lang Concert Hall and is free and open to the public.
Last semester the Orchestra performed Ballade in A Minor by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and this spring it will debut Sussex Landscape by his daughter, composer, conductor, and pianist Avril Coleridge-Taylor. The score for this piece came all the way from London, making this performance likely to be the debut for it in the United States. Conductor of the orchestra, Andrew Hauze, said, “We can give what is almost definitely the U.S. premiere of this piece [at this upcoming concert]”. Sussex Landscape describes the scenery for which it’s named. The piece was written after Coleridge-Taylor moved to Sussex, where she witnessed World War II’s influence on the landscape. Pay close attention to the shifting moods throughout the piece, you’ll notice heartwarming moments that feed into melancholic expressions as the peaceful scenery is consumed by the tidings of conflict.
Borne’s Carmen: Fantaisie Brillante will feature this year’s concerto competition winner Taylor Kang ‘23 as a flute soloist. This year’s competition was especially stiff as nine students competed with the winner selected by the music faculty. Borne’s piece serves as a “greatest hits” for Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen. Many of the themes are easily recognized by a general audience. Carmen’s influence extends far beyond an operatic setting. The famous “Habanera” theme has been played in spoof performances by the Muppets, Sesame Street, and many other popular shows. Other themes, such as the Prelude to Act 1, have even made their way into modern video games and television series. The opera also has several modern retellings in musicals and films with differing story elements. Kang’s flute promises to fill the concert hall with beautiful melodies from the famous opera, truly a performance not to be missed.
Symphony No. 8 in G Major from Antonín Dvořák was highly requested from many of the graduating seniors. The Orchestra has performed Dvořák’s 9th symphony, but never the 8th, and this will be director and conductor Professor Andrew Hauze’s first time programming the piece at Swarthmore. The symphony is a departure from many of Dvořák’s previous symphonies. Whereas some of his earlier works are somber and moody, this one feels bright and hopeful. However, as the famous first movement’s introduction displays, Dvořák is careful to balance the sunlight with some darkness. Many of the sounds heard throughout the thirty-five minute piece are reminiscent of nature, with roars of thunder in the brass and birds chirping in the wood winds.
The orchestra faced many challenges in preparing these pieces. Errors in the score for Sussex Landscape were discovered, made when the parts were derived from the original score. When describing the Dvořák piece, Hauze says “the scope of it is a lot to deal with… also just wrapping our minds around the shape of it takes a long, long time” and for Borne that, “it’s very, very free with lots of rubato and speeding up and slowing down. So just like with a singer, you have to be able to accompany them, and in this case a flute soloist”.
Hauze goes on to say that “an opportunity to hear an orchestra play, particularly in our beautiful concert hall, is a special treat because you hear such a huge range of tone color all produced acoustically with no microphones. And with all of us doing our best to be present in the moment, listening to one another, [it] creates a music experience that is cohesive, yes, but also alive and dynamic, really changing a lot moment to moment. And of course [it is] filled with a huge range of emotions and very beautiful melodies and harmonies, yes it’s a special thing…” It’s hard to find any better way to describe what it’s like hearing an orchestra perform in Lang Concert Hall, especially when it’s filled with students who have all worked hard together to bring an amazing show to the Swarthmore community.
The Swarthmore College Orchestra will be delighted to have you for their April 22nd performance at 8 pm in Lang Concert Hall. This will be a performance to remember!