It is cold outside. The first two weeks of the new trimester are done, so midterms are now being prepared for, if not imminent on the horizon waiting to consume all in their path. Students are swamped, freezing, tired and just wanting everything to stop. It is at times like this a Lawrence student or faculty member can sink into a feeling of despair.
But as always, Lawrence has music that can, if only for its runtime, transport us away from these troubles and anxieties, as was demonstrated by the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, Jan. 23. The kinetic energy of the players warmed those of us who had braved the cold to make it inside the chapel. The orchestra played five pieces and was conducted by Thom Ritter George, who looked and performed exactly like the conductor people dream of, with his shock of snow-white hair, tux with tails and graceful movements like the small flakes of snow that swirled outside.
The orchestra was joined by special guest, senior Sophie Yang, a rising musicial star, though Lawrence has known of her talents for years. Dressed in violet and greeted with a standing ovation as she entered for the second number, “Concerto for Violin in D minor, Allegro moderato,” by Sibelius, Yang’s playing was not flashy or overwhelming so much as it was simply correct. There were no mistakes, nothing to disagree with or debate. She simply played everything the exact way it should have been played, with no ambiguity in the result.
Alas, she only joined for one song, and while the rest of the concert was fantastic, it left us longing for more of that kind of experience. The first piece, Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture,” better fit the tone of the rest of the night: overwhelming and emotional, the kind of piece that plays havoc with your mind, exhausting you in the mental and physical sense. The intermission offered some respite, but then it was back to the storm, with von Weber’s “Invitation to the Dance,” “Elegy” by Hanson and Enesco’s “Romanian Rhapsody in A Major.”
When the concert ended we walked out into the cold, tired and weary but ultimately grateful. It is a generous thing to have music like this in the world, to have a conductor like George and to hear Yang play violin before she becomes someone of massive importance. In the dark winter’s night as we walked back to our homes or whatever else we needed to accomplish, there was a gratefulness, to know that even in these dark moments we are alive and well.