Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 12:34 pm | Fair 57º


Westmont Chamber Orchestra Glows

Barber, Beethoven and "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" top an encore performance.

Something old, something new, and a wonderful something in-between graced the concert of Westmont College’s Chamber Orchestra  Fall Concert last weekend in the sanctuary of El Montecito Presbyterian Church.

Dr. Michael Shasberger  conducted the young musicians in a program of works by Samuel Barber, Giaochino Rossini, Ludwig Van Beethoven and J.A.C. Redford, who created a new piece specifically for this ensemble, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness."

The evening was anchored by the youthful 20th Century Barber and the Romantic Age Beethoven, with "Knoxville Summer of 1915" ending the concert’s first half, and Beethoven’s powerful Symphony No. 1 comprising the entire second half.

Barber’s evocative music for "Knoxville Summer of 1915" is set to the poem by James Agree, sung in this concert by Westmont voice instructor Celeste Tavera. She possesses a pure soprano and an exquisite gift for interpreting the poignant Agree poetry. The program reprinted Agee’s note that appears at the top of the score: "We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in the time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child." Barber dedicated the music to the memory of his own father. The flavor of the poem resounds in Agee’s plea, "May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father."

A spiritual note was struck at the concert’s beginning with Redford’s brief new work, with words by Thomas Chisholm based on the hymn by William A. Runyan. Redford is a composer for film and television, as well as a creator of classical chamber pieces. This concert was the world premiere of "Great is Thy Faithfulness."

The young players had a lark with Rossini’s Overture for "Il Signor Bruschino." One musician friend of mine used to say Rossini was the King of the Overtures, and indeed he was. "Bruschino" is a romantic farce typical of Rossini’s operas, and the Overture captured this rowdy spirit neatly.

In presenting three of the four movements of Beethoven’s First Symphony, the orchestra proved an ideal medium for the work. We should remember that Beethoven’s music was written for orchestras the size of this young chamber group, not the great thundering professional symphonies of today.

Well done, Westmont!

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