Studio Orchestra performs at Jazz Weekend

This past term, the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra (LSO) and the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE) joined to become the Lawrence Studio Orchestra, a sea of talented musicians. On Nov. 8, LSO joined the Lawrence Jazz Faculty Group and took the stage in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel for a performance in the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend. The chapel was buzzing with professors, Lawrence students and high school students from across Wisconsin as well as community members and family of the performing students.

The show opened with selections from “The Nutcracker,” guest directed by Kimberly-Clark Professor of Music, Professor of Music and Director of Bands Andrew Mast. The first of the selections, “II. March,” was performed by LSO in the style of the original composition by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky, a Russian composer famous for his ballets, which include “The Nutcracker,” “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty.” In contrast, the following three selections — “III. Peanut Brittle Brigade,” “I. Overture” and “VIII. Dance of the Floreadores” — were performed in the style of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s altered versions of the compositions. The Strayhorn-Ellington version featured impressive solos from several students. 

At the end of the opening set, Director of LUJE Patty Darling took the stage. She said, “You probably didn’t expect Tchaikovsky to open a jazz show, but you also probably didn’t expect snow in October,” eliciting a laugh from the audience.

Next, LSO performed “Terlingua” composed by Fred Sturm, featuring the vocals of Lecturer of Music Janet Planet and Lecturer of Music Bill Carrothers on piano. The piece began sounding almost eerie, with Planet’s vocals providing a feathery, ghostly element. But as the song progressed, it picked up into a very fast-paced piece. Towards the end, it faded back into a softer, soothing tune.

The next two pieces were played only by the Lawrence Jazz Faculty Group. They first performed “Cette Chose” by Bobby Gaspar, with Assistant Professor of Music Tim Albright on trombone, Instructor of Jazz Saxophone José Encaranción on tenor saxophone, Carrothers on piano, Associate Professor of Music Mark Urness on bass and Professor of Music Dane Richeson on drums. Next, they played “Dance of the Evergreens,” by Nathan Hanson, which felt like a rather abstract piece in comparison to the previous numbers. Carrothers played the piano rapidly, his fingers flying up and down the keyboard. Urness slammed the strings of the bass rhythmically. It was a highly impressive performance.

The final song, “I. Bound Away,” a selection from “River Runs” by Check Owen, featured LSO, several members of the Jazz Faculty Group (Encarnación, Lecturer of Music Steve Peplin and Instructor of Music Matt Turner), as well as Mast as conductor. It was a very lively piece, giving off the unique feeling of being a fast train, partially due to the bells and chimes that were included throughout the piece. Senior Zoe Markle, who stood center stage, played the upright bass with speed and precision. The number then changed in tone — the focus came onto Markle, Encarnción, Peplin and Turner, and the sound became reminiscent of a Western shoot-out scene, with Turner sliding on the cello in a way that could only evoke the image of a tumbleweed. The piece eventually built, reintroducing the orchestra, and ended sharply without a ring-out.

It was exciting to watch these different groups come together for one grand performance. They certainly left the audience in awe, receiving a well-deserved standing ovation.