Entertain Me: Symphonic Dances and Copeland's America

By Olivia Sanchez | October 7, 2016 3:27am

University of Portland's Wind Symphony performs in Feb. 2014.

Media Credit: The Beacon / The Beacon

Buckley Center Auditorium was swarming with camera-clad parents, supportive friends and note-taking Fine Arts 207 students long before Saturday night’s concert even began. The harsh lights were still all lit up, and people were leaned across rows and aisles chatting before the musicians filled the stage.

The evening featured the University of Portland Wind Symphony and Orchestra performing music that got the whole audience in the mood for fall.

The Wind Symphony was performing first, and classmates filed gracefully out onto the stage dressed all in black and carrying wind instruments as massive in size as the tuba, all while managing not to knock any chairs, music stands or people over!

The University of Portland’s Wind Symphony performed four pieces with the theme of “Symphonic Dances” the highlight of which, was (the very timely) “October” by Eric Whitacre. The piece was beautifully performed and made me think of leaves dancing in the wind on a blustery autumn day. It was reminiscent of the way the sun glows through autumn leaves in the early morning. Whitacre wrote that this song “captures the natural and pastoral soul of the season.”

The difference between Wind Symphony and Orchestra, is that Wind Symphony is composed mostly of brass instruments and percussion. Orchestra includes brass and percussion as well, but in fewer quantities, because they also include an assortment of string instruments. Wind Symphony appeared to be almost exclusively made up of students, while Orchestra was an eclectic mix of students, faculty and staff musicians all working together!

When I closed my eyes and just listened, I would have never known that some of the musicians were barely old enough to vote and others were going grey -- together they sounded awesome and triumphant. Their resounding and bold melodies felt like a score to a dramatic film which sent you into a world of your own, a world more illuminated and grand than The Bluff can sometimes feel during the rainy season.

After a brief intermission, Orchestra took the stage to perform six pieces composed by University of Portland Alumnus Aaron Copland, who graduated with a masters degree on Nov. 4, 1975.

Their first and most recognizable piece was “Fanfare for the Common Man” which included brass musicians from both the University’s Wind Symphony, and Orchestra. Their performance was nothing short of victorious. All the pieces that the University Orchestra performed were part of Copeland’s American collection, so they all felt very patriotic and exciting. (I think if they played this during the presidential debate it would be a lot less depressing!)

The third piece that the orchestra played was titled “Down a Country Lane” and was conducted by senior music major Shelby Covington. Covington is an Undergraduate Conducting Associate who has been training under Dr. David De Lyser. She wore the classic attire of a seasoned conductor-- a tuxedo with tails and walked up to the front of the stage like she owned the place. She conducted this 1965 arrangement with grace -- there is no way you would have known she was a student if the program didn’t say so!

The musical experience of the fall concert left me feeling important, like I was a brave heroine and my life had an exciting soundtrack. I was not ready to return to my midterm flashcards and study guides when the musicians took their final bows. The two hour concert flew by! Although I’m sure the musicians were exhausted, I was left wanting more. The collection of music was timely to both fall season and the election season. It was lively, and kept the whole audience on their toes throughout the entire concert!

The University of Portland Performing & Fine Arts performance schedule can be found here

Contact News and Managing Editor Olivia Sanchez at sancheol18@up.edu or on Twitter @OliviaRSanchez.