Pomona College Orchestra Brings Bridges to Life with Multi-Century Pieces

The sound of conversation filled the Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music, interspersed with
a mix of melodies by a few smartly dressed musicians taking their places on
stage. From the smooth and drawn-out cello strokes to
the plinking violin pizzicatos, the room was abuzz with activity—until it
suddenly went silent. With a quick bow and a flick of the conductor’s baton, Little
Bridges came alive.

The Pomona College Orchestra convened in Little Bridges on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12 for its first
performance of the semester. The ensemble included both faculty and student
musicians, many of whom were first-years. The synthesis of different ages and
experience levels did not go unnoticed by audience members.

“I most enjoyed seeing the faculty
members play along with the students,” Michaela Ince PO ’18 said.  

Music professor and department chair Eric Lindholm conducted the performance and chose the ensemble’s repertoire, which consisted
of four pieces, one each from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.

Chronologically, the Orchestra performed Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart’s Symphony No. 35 in D, K. 385
“Haffner,” Charles Gounod’s “Avant de quitter ces lieu” from Faust, Manuel De Falla’s Suite No. 1 from The Three-Cornered Hat and the western United States’ premiere of Joan Tower’s
Red Maple.

Each piece was of particular significance to
Lindholm. The Gounod aria, for example, was programmed in memory of Raymond
Fenton, a friend of the Pomona College Music Department and a participating
trombonist in the Pomona College Band and Orchestra.

The featured soloist for the piece was Stephen
Klein on euphonium. Klein, a Pomona tuba and euphonium instructor since 1981
and Associate Director of the Band, collaborated with Fenton for many years.

Carolyn Beck, an adjunct bassoon teacher at Pomona
and the University of Redlands, was the featured soloist in Red Maple. The inclusion of this piece was
decided upon before the rest of the pieces in the ensemble’s repertoire. Both
the Mozart and Falla pieces were added later, with the aim of creating
variety within the performance.

“I try to come up with pieces that will be fun and
challenging for the orchestra, and also a good fit for the particular
characteristics of this semester’s ensemble,” Lindholm said. “I also try
to have a balance between different musical styles and time periods.”

The diversity of chosen pieces did not go unappreciated
by audience members.

“I really liked that they had a nice mix of music
from all different types of places,” Zoe Zhou PO ’18 said.

The performance was the culmination of five weeks—or
about 18 hours—of rehearsal, a commitment that every musician took very
seriously.

“Other than attending all the orchestra
rehearsals, whenever I was practicing for my lessons, like my solo pieces, I
would also pull out the orchestra music and just look at any hard passages I
might want to work on,” said Alfred Yi PO ’18, one of the ensemble’s four
bassoonists.

While each piece required much attention and
practice, the pieces performed in collaboration with Klein and Beck presented
the greatest challenge to the group. Red
Maple
originally gave the strings trouble, requiring several rehearsals
before Beck even joined practice to complete the piece. Despite such difficulty,
the piece impressed a number of audience members.

“The bassoon solo was amazing,” Zhou said. “The
piece was very haunting.”

Members of the ensemble appreciated the opportunity
to work with Klein and Beck. Many welcomed the challenges presented by the ensemble, including a varied mix of instruments with soloist roles. 

“I really love soloists, so I’m always excited to
have them and play for them as an orchestra, but I’ve never had two wind and
brass players before,” cellist Savannah Meadors PO ’18 said. “That was unique,
because I’m used to just only string soloists, so having the different type was
really exciting.”

Musicians are notoriously passionate about their art, and the
student members of the orchestra were no exception. When asked about their
favorite pieces, many were adamant about their own preferences. Everyone,
though, could agree on the value of the Mozart.

“It really set the air for the concert season,
because the opening D is one of the most grandiose ones, especially in all the
Mozart symphonies,” violinist Leonard Chen PO ’18 said. “D Major is also just a
very pleasant-to-the-ear chord, so honestly it’s just a very good classic start
that kind of set us along our way.”

Yi agreed with Chen’s sentiment, and
attributed his own appreciation of the piece to a relatable style. Members of
the audience praised the Mozart as well, calling attention to an immediate
brightening of the concert’s mood.

Regardless of individual inclinations, the performance
represented a promising start to a semester of impressive live music.

“Despite the nerves, especially the first night
when we had a huge audience and it was our first time playing together as an
orchestra, the concert went very well,” Chen said.  

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