This past week, members of the Luther community had the opportunity to attend the first full performance of the year for Philharmonia symphony, and the debut of Symphonic Band. The first of these concerts was held in the Noble Recital Hall on Tuesday November 9, and the second was performed in the Main Hall of the CFL the following day on November 10.
Philharmonia’s set included pieces by Mozart, Borodin, Warlock, and Joplin, utilizing different group arrangements for each, including a cello quartet. For Symphonic Band’s debut, they performed pieces by Agapkin, Del Tredici, Turina, Ito, and Grainger, all under the theme of “Global Voices.”
The Philharmonia orchestra is a smaller ensemble of around 20 members, allowing them to fit comfortably into a smaller space such as The Noble Recital, and give audience members a closer, more intimate performance.
“It was kind of cool that it was in the NRH, and not the CFL, because it complimented the smaller group better,” audience member Lani Himegarner (‘24) said. “I don’t know if Philharmonia usually performs there, or if it just worked better because of their size, but I thought it worked really well.”
The group began with three movements from “String Quartet in C Major, K. 157,” written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. After these two pieces, the ensemble rearranged their set up to allow for a special cello quartet including Philharmonia members Libby Carls (‘25), Erin Keller (‘22), Vicky Davis (‘25), and Anastasia Baldus (‘23). This smaller group performed a piece called “Notturno” from “String Quartet No. 2,” written by Alexander Borodin and arranged by Nick Halsey.
After the cello quartet the ensemble once again rearranged, bringing on stage with them a few more cellists and bassists, as well as some percussionists. The director, Professor of Music Spencer Martin, who was previously playing the viola as a member of the group, stepped up onto the podium to direct in a more formal capacity.
“Last year that didn’t really happen at all because we had a bigger viola section,” principal cellist Cassandra Magee (‘24) said. “I think it’s nice that [Martin performed with us] this year, because we only have the one violist, so there’s more sound coming from that part. It’s also fun because for at least the Mozart piece, we got to perform as a smaller chamber ensemble without a conductor.”
When the orchestra finished arranging itself, the group went on to perform a difficult five movement piece called “Capriol Suite” by Peter Warlock, followed by “Bethena” and “Pineapple Rag,” both written by Scott Joplin and arranged by Luther’s own Professor of Music and Composer in Residence Brooke Joyce.
The second performance this past Wednesday was given by the brand-new Symphonic Band. Directed by Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Bands Cory Near, the Symphonic Band was formed as the successor to two previous band ensembles at Luther, Varsity Band and Wind & Percussion Ensemble.
“I told the students when we were making the change that it wasn’t about deleting one group and renaming another,” Near said. “I thought, let’s just form a new ensemble and let’s call it Symphonic Band. I think Symphonic Band has been a great success.”
Once onstage, the band started off their inaugural concert under the theme of “Global Voices.” It featured the composition “A Slavic Farewell,” written by Vasilij Agapkin and arranged by John Bourgeois. This was followed by “Acrostic Song” from Final Alice, composed by David Del Tredici and arranged by Mark Spede.
After these first two pieces, the ensemble took a small break to allow for Near to recognize several seniors in the band for whom this was their last performance. This break was followed by a rendition of “Five Miniatures,” written by Joaquin Turina and arranged by John Krance, and then a performance of “Festal Scenes,” composed by Yasuhide Ito.
“I liked Festal Scenes, I liked all of the different sections in it, they were all very different,” Symphonic Band member and principal flutist Mya Ploor (‘24) said. “The middle section was just really pretty, and I really liked that piece overall. Towards the end there was one section that was weird, it was just something that I had never played before, so that was nice.”
Before the performance continued, the band took a brief intermission so Luther’s handbell choir could join the ensemble onstage. The two groups collaborated to play “No Shadow of Turning” by David Gillingham, which prominently featured the handbell choir as a part of its score. This was followed by “Ye Banks and Braes O’ Bonnie Doon,” and “Shepherd’s Hey,” both by Percy Aldridge Grainger. These two final songs were dedicated in memory of Dr. Joan deAlbequerque, former Director of Bands here at Luther, who passed away on September 6.
Those interested in attending future productions by either Philharmonia or the Symphonic Band can look forward to early spring of 2022, and enjoy performances by other ensembles in the meantime, including a full orchestra performance at Christmas at Luther December 2-5.