A Perfect Blend of Music and Art from W.S.O.

Every now and then comes one of those perfect weekends, and I just enjoyed a special one. Friday night saw the football warriors of The Woodlands High School clinch the district championship for the Highlanders. On Saturday my recently frustrated Texas Longhorns redeemed themselves with a sizeable win over Nebraska. And topping things off on Sunday, The Woodlands Symphony Orchestra opened its season with a brilliantly creative concert blending music with the visual arts. Leave it to the symphony’s innovative Music Director, Dagang Chen, to pioneer yet another way to involve the community and local students in the symphonic experience.

The concert, titled “Exhibition in Music,” was a collaborative effort with students from both the Conroe Independent School District and the Composition Department of Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. The results were nothing short of astounding. And even before the art segments of the program, the orchestra’s thrilling “Star Spangled Banner” set a high standard under maestro Chen’s baton. Then came the excitement of Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.” Opening with rich work from the cellos, the piece soon had the violins humming like a fine-tuned beehive as the escalating musical excitement of the full orchestra led on to the more familiar “Lone Ranger” portion of this classic. Only audience members with the most severe arthritis failed to be tapping their feet at the thrilling conclusion.

Next came the original works of Rice University student composers inspired by the artwork of CISD pupils:

  1. “The Horizon”- by an artist listed in the program as Stoehr, depicted an exotic armadillo and cactus under a lavender-blue sky. It featured shimmering music from Lembit Beecher that was sometimes reminiscent of the grand orchestral style of noted film composer, Miklos Rozsa (known for such classics as his Oscar-winning score for “Ben-Hur).
  2. “The Dock”- Richard Bowes artist, and Taquma Itoh, composer. Both music and art had an eerie, shadowy atmosphere that was perfectly executed for a Halloween weekend. Allow me to use an overworked word: Awesome!
  3. “Sunset Lake”- Heather Triplett, artist, Jacob Barton, composer. The compelling music employs an amazing variety of orchestral sections while exploring the mystery of the setting sun on a darkening lake at twilight.
  4. “Dancing on Limbs”- Sarah Ryan, artist, and Troy Wayne, composer. A rich and well-crafted score accompanies this clever intertwining of lacey tree branches with the partitioned limbs of a dancer.
  5. “Perfect Paradise”- Andrew Wong, artist, Francisco Castillo Trigueros, composer. This complex scene of contrasting coastal tides yielded a musical score with Latin rhythms, oriental flavors and sensuous strings.
  6. “Sunset at Harbor”- Marianne Bae, artist. Composer, Tom Conroy, told the audience his goal was to musically depict the lilting motion of the boats in the harbor, threaten them with heavier seas, and then return the calm safety of the harbor. These goals were all met in his richly hypnotic score.
  7. “Snap Dragon”- Luis Rodriguez, artist, James Bishop, composer. The colorful and exciting dragon yields an equally colorful and exciting composition. It is a work of intense power with a passionate finale.
  8. “Stick Out of Water”- Colby Hearn, artist, Christopher Lee, composer. A calm and stately dead tree extends from its watery grave; and Lee’s music nicely captures the mood.
  9. “Landscape of a Lifetime”- Megan Anderson, artist, Randy Partain, composer. Partain uses a delicate and elegant blending of the orchestral colors to capture Anderson’s vibrant colors in a sunset.

Next, accompanying the orchestra’s fine performance of Aaron Copeland’s “Rodeo,” there were special delights of art and animation from the Woodlands High School students of instructor, Anne Morrison’s Art 3 Electronic Media class. They skillfully provided fun-filled visual images appropriate to the rodeo theme.

When the concert concluded with Wagner’s “Meister Singer Overture,” the audience was on its feet to applaud a program that had divinely blended artistic inspirations.

(The Villager    11.6.03)

(The Courier    11.9.03)

About The People's Critic

David Dow Bentley III, writes columns about the performing arts which are featured in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast. A member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA), The International Theatre Critics Association, and America's oldest theatrical club, The Lambs, he also had long service as the editor of The Lambs' Script magazine. Mr. Bentley may be contacted via e-mail at ThePeoplesCritic3@gmail.com.
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