Fall Symphony Orchestra Concert

A concert filled with thrilling performances by students


Morgan Fuerstenberg graphic

On Nov. 4, conductor Craig Mason led the UW-Platteville Symphony Orchestra through their fall concert. The concert consisted of four pieces, with the third piece having a total of four movements. This concert also included alumni who got to relive their experiences under the bright stage lights with current students who share the same passion for orchestral music. 

The concert wordlessly began with Soon Hee Newbold’s “Iditerod.” This exhilarating performance was exactly what was needed to instantly draw the audience in and hypnotize them with the music. The first two minutes were thrilling, encompassing what it feels like to speed across the tundra in the race the piece is named after. Its dramatic accents were abruptly cut by the sound of the piano and a single violin owned by community member Barb Wilhelm. Across the next minute or so, the string orchestra started to fade back in slowly and quietly, nudging the audience to place themselves next to a fire under the frozen and empty night sky, sitting pensively alone. Just as quickly it was cut — suddenly the audience was back in the race with all the dramatism of the beginning. “Iditerod” finishes with a triumphant conclusion, as if reminiscing on the race that had just been completed.

Next up was Florence Beatrice Smith Price’s “The Old Boatman.” This deceptively tricky piece is significantly slower than the previous piece, with vibrato throughout and short, but savory, violin and cello solos. The piece conveys the image of an elderly seafarer making his way back to shore after a long day out on the sea. Salt in his beard and water on his boots, he quietly pilots his beloved ship to the dock. The stone-faced boatman’s eyes water, both from the sea air and the feeling of melancholy loneliness, for it was only he and his cold and relentless love that is the ocean. 

The third piece was William Grant Still’s “Danzas de Panama,” with four movements titled Tamborito, Mejorana, Punto and Cumbia. This piece was conducted by guest conductor Dr. William James McClain of Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. With sweeping arms, McClain coordinated the orchestra. The lively and graceful music of the piece was accompanied by non-traditional knocking on the wooden bodies of the instruments, in which the orchestra members, at certain intervals, would knock in beat to the music. The music felt like it would belong perfectly in a dance performance at a party or on the street. This almost 16-minute piece was full of life and excitement, and without a doubt made the string orchestra’s arms tired.

The last piece brought in the rest of the orchestra, including brass, drums and cymbals, as well as Mason one last time to conduct. This final piece, titled “March to the Scaffold,” written by Louis-Hector Berlioz, is actually the fourth of five movements in a larger piece titled “Symphonie Fantastique.” While the whole piece tells a story, the fourth movement is about a dream the main character has after poisoning himself with a non-lethal dose of opium. In the dream, he watches himself walk to the scaffold and his eventual execution following him murdering his beloved. The piece started off very solemn and dark, then switched to triumphant music, then back to dark again. These alternating themes were then interrupted by a clarinet solo, which is meant to signify one last moment of happiness before the clash of the orchestra returns, meaning that the main character was beheaded. It ends triumphantly, with the anticipation of its conclusion growing with each passing measure. 

The UW-Platteville Symphony Orchestra put on a spectacular show, and the return of live music to the lives of audience-goers was much anticipated and well worth the wait. The UW-Platteville Symphony Orchestra will be playing once again on Dec. 3 and 4 at the Holiday Gala, starting at 7:30 p.m.