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Gerald Carpenter: The Westmont Orchestra Turns 10

Now in its 10th year, the Westmont Orchestra boasts over 50 members, representing all symphonic instruments.
Now in its 10th year, the Westmont Orchestra boasts over 50 members, representing all symphonic instruments. (Westmont photo)

The Westmont Orchestra, founded 10 years ago by Dr. Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship, will celebrate their first decade with concerts at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, 2015, in Westmont’s Page Multipurpose Room and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015, at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church.

The program begins with Westmont graduate Daniel Gee's arrangement of William Howard Doane's hymn, To God Be the Glory, followed by Antonín Dvořák's Carnival Overture, Op. 92 (1891), "Autumn," from Alexander Glazunov's ballet, The Seasons, Op. 67 (1900), and, after the intermission, the Suite from Aaron Copland's ballet, Billy the Kid (1938).

 Dvořák's Carnival Overture is an exciting and tuneful piece. He actually composed quite a few pieces of this length, calling them variously "dramatic overtures," "concert overtures" or "symphonic poems," but most have yet to be discovered by modern concert audiences.

If you like the Carnival Overture, I urge you to seek out recordings of The Golden Spinning Wheel, The Noon Witch, The Wild Dove or The Water Goblin.

 Glazunov's music, too, remains largely, like 98 percent of an iceberg, beneath the surface of concert life. He is remembered mainly for The Seasons, for his drinking and for having conducted the disastrous premiere of Rachmaninov's First Symphony.

His music, admittedly old-fashioned, is nevertheless gorgeous, and his symphonies and concertos make for very pleasant listening, as does his other major ballet, Raymonda (1898).

 Shasberger founded the Westmont Orchestra shortly after he joined the college's faculty in August 2005, although, for its first two seasons the ensemble was known as the Westmont Chamber Orchestra.

“Every anniversary has its own charm and meaning,” Shasberger says, “but somehow a decade says something about durability, permanence and establishment. We started the Westmont Orchestra as an all-student ensemble with a vision and a commitment, and now it has proven to be a contributing member of the Santa Barbara arts community.

Once it had grown to 52 student musicians, representing all the symphonic instruments, the word chamber was dropped from the name. 

"[We] began with the hope and intention to make a statement about the sophistication of Westmont’s robust commitment to the liberal arts and to excellence, and for a decade it has affirmed that intention. The orchestra began with 16 members playing for an audience of 100 and is now at full strength of about 60 members playing annually for thousands in Santa Barbara and to many more on three continents over its 10-year history. It’s thrilling to be part of that journey,” he said.

 Tickets, which cost $10 for general admission (students are free), may be purchased at the door. For more information, please contact the music department at 805.565.6040 or email [email protected].

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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