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Image by Angelo Claure

By Angelo Claure

Showtime at the Music Center Recital Hall

It was a cold and rainy night on Thursday, March 9th at the UC Santa Cruz Recital Hall, but the music could not be delayed nor the crowd discouraged. The UCSC Orchestra led by conductor Bruce Kiesling came out a little past 7:30 pm to a packed house. The Program was titled “Great American Ballet Music” as Bruce let the crowd know that the orchestra would be playing Waltz #2 from Jazz Suite by Dmitri Shostakovich (this piece only played by the UCSC Wind Quintet), Excerpts from The River by Duke Ellington, and Billy the Kid (Suite from the Ballet) by Aaron Copland. The audience eagerly awaited as the Orchestra cleared the stage for the Wind Quintet to get the show started.

The lights dimmed, the buzz of the audience silenced, and the air itself held its own breath for a few seconds in anticipation of the music. The Waltz #2 began with the bassoon player introducing a mystic melody that sounded as if a snake charmer had began the task of hypnotizing us, patiently the rest of the Wind Quintet ushered along playing a beautiful Waltz. This introductory composition set the direction for the entirety of the show, a night filled with vivid swinging, patient but assured melodies, and notes utilized to paint magnificent impressions upon the audience.

The complete Orchestra returned to the stage after the Waltz #2 to begin our journey into Duke Ellington’s The River. Part one of the composition is titled “Spring” as it reveals to the audience the very initial trickling of water that may hope to become something more. The piece is beautifully eased in by the wind and violin section until there is a hopeful swing brought on by the patient climb of the whole orchestra that leads to a dynamic explosion of harmony. There emerges after this climax, the birth of the River backed by the constant heartbeat of the percussion to reveal to us that new body of water so eager to live and sway! Part two of this composition is titled “Meander”, and it is here where The River learns to really swing! A birth of the cool moment led by a demanding brass section that put a real oomph in the river’s dance. The rest of this composition continues from part three “Giggling Rapids” to the end of part five, “Two Villages”. In Giggling Rapids the River learns to enjoy life with a swinging violin section and constant percussive emphasis, in Lake (part four) there is a more reflective sway as the River discovers perhaps the outskirts of a village and its people brought on by the surprising rattle of maracas, and finally in Two Villages the Orchestra grants us a serene welcoming home, the end of a long endeavor, the re-connection of a River and what it sought through a final momentous swing of the string section and a long lasting call of triumph by the horn section.

The final performance of Billy the Kid was a more western conceptualized piece which had various twists and turns in its storytelling. A fun dynamic piece characteristic of the rough American West full of gunfights, death, and outlaws. A great display by the Orchestra of dramatic percussive fills throughout the show on this piece. The night was the true Santa Cruz filled night, stars revealing their light, trees swaying in the wind, and the never-ending musical spirit of the students leading the way. The rain even learned how to swing thanks to the spectacular performance put on by the UCSC Orchestra. Here’s looking forward to what the UCSC Orchestra has in the works for us in the Spring!