By MARCELLA DECOUD
On December 11, the University High School (UHS) orchestras blew away the audience with their festive pieces full of holiday spirit. This concert featured joyous pieces from String, Concert and Symphonic Orchestra. The concert was beautifully directed by Ms. Grace Lee (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.), who prepared all three orchestra groups for the concert in only four weeks. The pieces were delivered magnificently and with utmost precision. The night started off with String Orchestra’s cheery piece “A La Media Noche” by Bob Lipton and continued with diverse pieces including “Christmas Canon” by Michael Green and “Trepak” by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Concert Orchestra played many light-hearted and fun pieces, but my personal favorite was the serene piece “Snowflake” by Yukiko Nishimura. “Snowflake” was a soft, gentle piece that automatically gave me peace of mind as it preluded to the airy and light sound of “Mother Ginger” from The Nutcracker.
Afterwards, Symphonic Orchestra closed the concert with a performance of four impressive pieces including “Gleeful Christmas,” “Swan,” “Rest” and “Sleigh Ride.” “Gleeful Christmas” by Adam Anders and Peer Astrom was a fun introduction to Symphonic Orchestra’s performance and had the audience clapping along with the beat held by impressive percussionists. Afterwards, Symphonic Orchestra’s cellists and harpist were featured in the gentle and beautiful piece “Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. “Rest” by Frank Ticheli was a solemn, slow piece that beautifully captured the fragile emotion behind the song; Ticheli composed “Rest” for Pacific Symphony’s Carl St. Clair, whose son had tragically passed away. After “Rest,” the orchestra transitioned to the crowd-pleaser “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson. The performance was a rare treat for the musicians because Symphonic Orchestra and select band members have had few opportunities to rehearse together since rehearsals are now during the school day, and orchestra and band do not meet at the same time. Despite this restraint, Symphonic Orchestra members practiced “Sleigh Ride” with band members during Wednesday office hours for two weeks before the concert. The orchestra played this piece magnificently; the sound resonated throughout the entire theater with the combined power, grace and melodious harmony of the two groups. Cellist James Gui (Jr.) said, “I was interested whether we would be able to pull off ‘Sleigh Ride’ with two groups since we had so little time. But in the end I think we did amazing.”
Ms. Lee reflected on the orchestra performance and said, “I really enjoyed [Concert Orchestra’s] ‘A Christmas Festival.’ The ballad between first and second violins was very well played.” It was apparent that she was proud of all her students and their dedication to learn different pieces for the concert in only four weeks. Although the orchestra groups had limited time to prepare after their fall concert, they continued to impress the audience with their remarkable talent. Each orchestra performed the winter pieces again at Disneyland’s California Adventure on Wednesday, December 17. After this concert and the holiday break, the groups will begin rehearsing for their festival competitions in March.