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Colburn String Ensemble and String Orchestra Report

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Updated: Jun 21st, 2021

On Saturday, January 18th, 2020, at the Community School of Performing Arts’ (CSPA) Zipper Hall, Winter String Concert took place, featuring the Colburn String Ensemble and String Orchestra. The conductors of this musical masterpiece were Margaret Shimizu and Rebecca Frazier. It was an annual winter performance of the School’s members. It was an exciting and, at times, breathtaking event that made my heart beat faster to the passages of timeless pieces of music. Musicians demonstrated not only perfect pitch and harmonized play but also the significant extent of teamwork and feeling of joy coming from what they were doing. Everyone in the crew knew his or her place, role, and part. The factors above resulted in the fascinating and unified flow of great authors’ compositions.

The action started with the string ensemble performing David Schaffer’s Westminster Prelude and Fugue. Melody was quite memorable and straightforward, and musicians were giving bell-like sounding to the notes by quickly striking bows from time to time. It was a composition in major excepting the little part in the Fugue. Then, two pieces from Suite de Symphonies by Jean-Joseph Mouret, and arranged by Rebecca Frazier and Rick England, were performed.

Rondeau could be characterized by varying dynamics, fanfare-like openings in constant phrases, and the strong rhythm; moreover, I heard a lot of thrills in this piece. If to compare Westminster Prelude and Fugue to Rondeau, I might assume that the first was more coherent and majestic when the latter was cheerful and rhythmic. Then, the ensemble played one more piece from Suite de SymphoniesFanfare Allegro. It had the same energetic style as Rondeau, and musicians’ smooth bowing brought a similar feeling of lightness.

After Fanfare Allegro, the string orchestra took action and performed Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 6., No. 8 by Arcangelo Corelli. It consisted of five movements: Vivace-Grave, Allegro, Adagio-Allegro-Adagio, Vivace, and Allegro-Pastorale ad libitum. This famous Christmas composition perfectly continued the mood of Suite de Symphonies and fitted the spirit of winter. The first movement, Vivace-Grave, offered six robust measures of Vivace before the Grave part took place.

Allegro was played in the binary form and offered more emotional diversity due to staggered suspensions than the previous movement. Adagio-Allegro-Adagio was my favorite part as it contained a moment when violins unexpectedly broke forth with swift and rippled sixteenth note swing. Vivace was short and calm in comparison with the third movement to give the listeners a chance to take a rest. However, Allegro-Pastorale ad libitum was quite sizeable and ended the Concerto in a high tone. Constant tempo changes in this composition did not give me an opportunity to get bored.

The performers of the following four compositions were Holly Lacey (violin), Chloe Choe (violin), and Isabella Adishian (cello). First, they played funny and light “Mother Ginger” from The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and arranged by Sandra Dackow. The symphonic cycle of this composition emphasized the hilarity and drive of Mother Ginger’s dance in The Nutcracker. After Concerto, it was a substantially light composition for the audience as it was necessary to take an emotional break. Then, the trio performed Finale from Symphony No. 88 by Franz Joseph Haydn, and arranged by Merle J. Isaac. It was as joyful and cheerful as “Mother Ginger” so that I felt the smile on my face during the whole two compositions.

Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, and arranged by Calvin Custer, was the next thrilling composition. This smooth and slow ballad contrasted with the expression of the two pieces above. It told the story of all the hardships that love is capable of overcoming. Its discreet but accurate accents made the idea of the great love almost visible and tangible in the Hall. The final trio’s act was Blue Grass Ball by Bruce Chase. It was an excellent concluding piece of the performance of the trio that required a high level of musical instrument proficiency. The musicians perfectly handled all the rapid dynamics, changing tempo, and complicated rhythm.

The last part of the Concert was the collaboration of the string ensemble and the string orchestra. They played “Farandole” from L‘Arlésienne, Suite No. 2 by Georges Bizet, and arranged by Merle J. Isaac. It was a culmination of the evening, which was the most epic, stateliest, and loud piece of music among all the mentioned above. Although it had a quite moderate pace, the accents and harmonies made the audience applaud for a couple of minutes in the aftermath.

In conclusion, I would like to say that the attendance of the event brought a large scale of emotions to me. I felt and saw the connection between the musicians all the time, and, despite their young age, the play was significantly mature and admirable. From the very first note to the last wave of the conductor, I did not want this performance to end. I suppose that the ensemble, orchestra, and trio showed their best in playing such remarkable pieces.

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