I attended the following detailed performance of the Grossmont Symphony Orchestra when they performed at St. John of the Cross Catholic Church this October. In order to properly document my thoughts and opinions on each piece performed, I will be listing the pieces below, followed immediately by my reactions. Firstly, in order to properly understand the quality of the concert, it is important to understand the composition of the performer group. This orchestra is a relatively standard orchestra, appearing to consist of performers on violin, viola, cello, standing bass, along with a nicely sized brass section.
They are accompanied by accessory woodwind players and a featured pianist. Importantly, the orchestra also contains an extensive percussion section, which, in my opinion, was vital to the overall ability of the group to capture the desired effect of the arrangements they chose to perform. Interestingly, it is nice to know that this orchestra consists of both musicians pursuing music as a career as well as members who are involved solely for the love of music. Overall, this group provided an appreciated variety of musicians and song choices not frequently seen in a single orchestral performance.
Now, to go into each piece in detail, I will subsequently list each title along with each movement performed. It is interesting to note that this orchestra chose to play both classical pieces along with pieces known in pop culture, classically referred to as “crowd pleasers.” This mixture allowed for many audience demographics to be well pleased.
Children’s Suite from the original motion picture Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Composed by J. Williams
It is not possible to describe how much I loved this selection as the first piece in the show. I believe that orchestral concerts are avoided by such a large population of the public because they would prefer to hear songs they recognize, which is mostly not the case with classical pieces. This movement captured the attention of the audience along with capturing the magic and whimsy that is so strongly present in the film.
While this movement is slightly less well-recognized as compared to the previous, it provided a strong shift in style that, I believe, allowed for a transition between the well-known feeling of pop culture music into the intricate uniqueness so often associated with classical music. In general, I feel as though this movement provided a taste of what was to come in regards to the musical complexity of future pieces.
This movement was a fantastic choice to follow “Diagon Alley.” I believe that it is critically important to keep the general public engaged in performances by returning to well-known pieces. I enjoyed the increased participation on the part of the woodwind section, leading to an overall different aesthetic than in the other pieces.
Harry’s Wondrous World
This movement was a fantastic conclusion to the first piece. The arrangement in itself is beautiful and complex. With the use of the integral bass instruments, the orchestra was able to produce that sought after feeling of emotional connection with the audience that every performer longs for.
Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor, Op. 21
Composed by F. Chopin
Featuring: Malvyn Lai, pianist
Before discussing each movement individually, I find it crucial to mention the featured pianist. This young boy surprised everyone in the audience. He is so incredibly talented, not to mention the effect his age had on the general public. With his young age, it provided a bridge between what people imagine as traditional musicians playing classical music, fusing it with the knowledge that the youngest generations are training and becoming so well equipped to take over the reins in the future. I think it is important to show that orchestra is not just for “older” people, but can in fact be performed and enjoyed by people of any age.
This movement introduced what most people associate with orchestra and classical music. It plays on traditional sound structure of orchestral compositions, highlighting the string sections with further energy and impact added by the remaining sections. To say the piano accompaniment was beautiful and intricate seems like an incredible understatement. However, sometimes it is impossible to convey the feelings of music into descriptive writing.
This movement initially seemed like it was poorly planned in the overall scheme of the performance. While I understand the traditional use of smoother, slower movements as contrast to the opening and closing segments, I believe that it can cause the general public to have an increased opinion of “slowness” or a sense of “dragging.” This is not because the song is not beautiful; more so, I believe this piece would have been better suited for earlier in the performance or after intermissions. However, as the piece continued, the piano accompaniment provided a unique increase in energy and excitement that was otherwise unexpected.
Overall, this movement provided a great transition in energy and pace, resulting in a highly exciting way to end the performance, while giving the audience the continued interest and longing for more when heading into the intermission.
Symphony No. 5, Op. 47
Composed by Shostakovich
This piece provided and interesting change in mood, with an overall increasing sense of mystery and intrigue. It was a welcome change from previous movements, allowing for the orchestra to display the diversity possible in classical music.
This movement was possibly my favorite transition in the entire performance. I continued to be surprised by the variety of musical styles used in this performance. I was always left wondering what exciting mood would come next to surprise me.
This movement was very appropriately named, in the sense that to song captured the essence of the musical term “Largo.” While I prefer pieces with faster tempos and more traditional high-energy effects, I respect the need for diversity in musical style.
Allegro non troppo/ Allegro
Overall, this movement was a fantastic conclusion to the effect of the concert. It left the audience with energy and excitement that is hard to convey after a long performance. It was evident that the musicians enjoyed playing this piece, almost as much as I enjoyed listening to it.