Under the direction of Professor of Music Dane Heuchemer, the 50-plus-member Symphonic Wind Ensemble presented their culminating performance of the year Sunday afternoon to a full crowd in Rosse Hall. The performance featured pieces the ensemble has been working on all year, with styles ranging from early Baroque music from the 16th century to an avant-garde composition from 1994.
A major highlight of the first half was a performance of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, featuring Pei-Sin Chen, a guest pianist from The Ohio State University who is working on her doctorate in piano performance. Chen expertly handled the complex piano part, and the band was successful in keeping up with her professional playing. “It was honestly an honor to play a piece with someone who is so dedicated to music and perfecting it,” Cat Smith ’20, a tuba player for the ensemble, said. “She didn’t need to play with us — our band isn’t in a music conservatory and is not in any way an elite group — but she still put so much time and effort into making the performance wonderful.”
After the intermission, Katherine Connolly ’17, a senior music major, took to the stand to conduct John Barnes Chance’s Incantation and Dance. The piece contained unusual, syncopated percussion and slowly building textures from the rest of the orchestra. Connolly appeared to handle this difficult material with ease.
Closing off the second half was Eric Whitacre’s 1994 composition Ghost Train. It is a challenging piece that includes unusual percussion made to sound like a train in motion and techniques such as pitch bending to add to the piece’s atmosphere. Making great use of the ensemble’s power, the piece was a forceful ending to their performance.
The Jazz Ensemble impressed a full crowd in Rosse Hall with their powerful final performance of the year on Sunday evening. The group filled Rosse Hall stage with a grand piano, two percussionists and 15 other players, performing arrangements of jazz pieces in styles such as blues standards and Afro-Peruvian fusion.
One standout of the show was John Fedchock’s “J Birds,” which featured trombone players Jodi Ann Wang ’20 and Carolyn Ten Eyck ’18. Ann Wang and Eyck stood at the front of the stage alternating solos and playing off of each other extremely well. Another great piece was an arrangement of Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” which the director, Professor of Music Ted Buehrer, introduced as having “an anger in the music that I think you’re gonna hear,” he said.
The second-to-last piece, Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues,” was what Buehrer called “my glorified attempt to get a lot of people up here soloing,” he said. While introducing the song, Buehrer jokingly made his “Rosse Hall vocal debut,” singing the original lyrics of the piece to an entertained crowd.
Keeping with the tradition of improvisation in jazz performance, Buehrer often stood to the side of the stage to allow the soloists lead the way. Throughout the show, almost every member of the ensemble approached the microphones at the front of the stage to improvise. Max Lazarus ’20, who soloed on tenor and soprano saxophone for “Junio y Garúa” and “C Jam Blues,” commented on the difficulty of improvising in a jazz performance.
“Generally you don’t want to be thinking too much,” he said. “If you can get into a spot where you’re just listening to what everybody else is playing, that’s the best spot to get in. It’s more about feeling than thinking too much.”