By Marina Liao
The Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra performed for the first time this semester at the Staller Arts Center after the affects of Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo cancelled the previous two concerts.
“Normally the [Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra] does shows six times a year, three per semester. Because of the past storm, this semester we are only having one show and despite the cold weather, we had an excellent audience,” said Michael Hershkowitz, director of concerts and community music programs at Stony Brook University.
More than 300 people attended the concert on Saturday which featured the distinguished conductor, George Manahan and viola soloist, Chieh-Fan Yiu, winner of the 2012 Stony Brook University Concerto Composition.
A third-time guest conductor at Stony Brook, Manahan stood before the orchestra and led the musicians into the first composition, Scherzo à la Russe, by Stravinsky. The music involved only one movement, and it was a fast-moving jovial piece. The first and third parts of the music were identical, while the second part, B, had a contrasting effect.
In addition to being a guest conductor at Stony Brook, George Manahan is also the Music Director of the American Composers Orchestra, Music Director of the Portland Opera and winner of the the 2012 Ditson Conductor’s Award, one of the oldest awards bestowed upon conductors of American music.
The spotlight, however, was on Yiu. Clad in an all-black suit and shiny patent black loafers, Yiu garnered the attention of the audience in his rendition of Rózsa’s 1979 Viola Concerto, Op. 37. The Julliard graduate has also performed in venues such as the Avery Fisher Hall and Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“The viola player was definitely very good, he played with great technique and feeling. I tried focusing on the complimentary relationship between his solo melodies and the rhythm section,” said Dan O’Dowd, a senior business management major and music minor.
Manahan said that he built the program around Yiu’s concerto in order to provide a contrast between the musical elements. The other two pieces Manahan chose were Igor Stravinsky’s Scherzo à la Russe and Edward Elgar’s “Enigma” Variations.
According to Hershkowitz, the concerts usually bring out a good number of people. But there were more many students in attendance on Saturday than are usually counted at the orchestra’s concerts—most of who came out because it was required for their music classes.
“I normally don’t go to these shows, but I was required to go for a music 101 class,” said Nancy Tang, a freshman at Stony Brook. “At first, I was not looking forward to the concert because it’s not something I’d do on my own, but I am glad I attended. It was an enlightening and new experience for me.”
Ticket prices to see the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra were $10 for students and $20 for non-students. Although Saturday’s opening night proved successful, the past two canceled concerts resulted in the loss of ticket sales. The lack of sales significantly impacted the music department’s ability to pay for some of their musical necessities.
Hershkowitz said the money from the concerts go back to the students through the hiring of guest conductors, renting music and other needs. The two cancelled shows will not be performed this semester. The December performance, however, will be rescheduled to Fall 2013.
In order to prepare for the performance, the musicians, a mix of master students and several undergraduates, had rehearsal five times a week and also practiced for hours before the opening night.
Manahan, who was alongside the musicians during rehearsals, said, “It’s not just about waving my stick, but it’s the challenge of getting [the musicians] on the same interpretation and getting them excited about the music. You want to challenge the students and not be boring, not talk too much and give them discipline.”
As the orchestra launched into the final piece by Elgar, which involved 14 movements with each variation of the piece representing a friend of the composer’s, the melodies and notes cascaded over the audience.
Zachary Hobin, a double bass player in the orchestra, said Elgar was his favorite piece to play because not only were there joyful and serious parts, but the composition also had mystery to it, like the audience members could feel the private meanings in the piece.
“It was definitely nice to get back on stage. As a musician, I start to get uncomfortable when I haven’t performed in awhile,” said Hobin.