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Orchestra concert explores music from the Americas

May this university never doubt the infinite range of music an orchestra can perform. To the layman, the word “orchestra” often suggests highly classical music that is difficult for anyone who is not a devoted musician to appreciate. On Sunday, Oct. 13, however, the Lawrence University Symphony Orchestra played their first show of the year with such a rich and diverse selection that the layman would be hard-pressed to stand by that position.

Led by the ever-charismatic Maestro Octavio Más-Arocas, music director and conductor, the performance was labeled “Music from the Americas.” The music was intended to bring to mind the energy and excitement inherent in a new school year. Newcomers this year, such as freshmen Dominic Ellis, Madeline Baker, Trent Guerrero and David De Stasio, were treated to a very fresh and original first concert with the orchestra.

First was the world premiere of “Resilience,” a brass fanfare composed by Lawrence graduate Nolan Veldey ’13 for the LSO Fanfare Project. True to the nature of a fanfare, the piece was a brief and lively introduction to the concert, packing a grand amount of emotion into a tiny time frame.

Second was Silvestre Revueltas’ “Sensemayá,” which was adapted from a poem by Nicolás Guillén. It is of an Afro-Cuban flavor, hectic and masculine, escalating, recapitulating, overlapping and even ominous and foreboding in ways.

Next came a four-movement suite: Dances from Estancia, dance suite from the ballet, op. 8a, composed by Alberto Ginastera, considered one of the most important Latin American classical composers. Each section is representational of its namesake: “Los trabajadores agriocolas” (“The land workers”), “Danza del trigo” (“Wheat dance”), “Los peones de hacienda” (“The cattle men”) and “Danza final: Malambo” (“Final dance: Malambo”). Estancia is placed by music historians within the first of Ginastera’s self-grouped musical periods, that of “Objective Nationalism.” Here, as the name indicates, Ginastera—and, by proxy, our own dear orchestra—straightforwardly presents Argentine folk themes in a rough, brash and fast-paced manner.

The penultimate piece was also the most distinct, given that it featured professor of jazz saxophone José Encarnación. Encarnación leads the jazz improvisation classes, coaches small jazz ensembles, teaches applied jazz saxophone and coordinates the jazz performance program at the Conservatory.

Encarnación and the orchestra performed four movements from “Focus” by Eddie Sauter. The composition was made famous by a recording done by famous jazz saxophonist Stan Getz, who improvised over the ensemble, thereby inextricably mingling classical and jazz sounds. Getz himself purportedly stated that it was his favorite recording. Encarnción performed wonderfully and smoothly through the four movements: “I’m Late, I’m Late,” “Her,” “Night Rider” and “A Summer Afternoon.” Focus is at times yelping and frantic and at others airy and calm. It is, most importantly, at all times a delight for the ears.

Last to be played was the world premiere of the Symphony Orchestra version of “Libertadores” by Oscar Navarro-González. The piece is split into two parts. The first is inspired by the Amazon River and Rainforest, while the second works as a fanfare dedicated to liberators of South America, such as Simón Bolívar. It was an acutely powerful way to end the performance, especially as the drummers poured out into the audience, repeating the same drum line in harmony with one another.

The next two orchestra concerts are the Chamber Orchestra concert at 6:30pm on Sunday, Nov. 3 and another Symphony Orchestra concert at 8:00pm on Sunday, Nov. 17. Both will be in the chapel.