By GRACE LIU
Instead of solely featuring the UHS orchestras, as previous years have, this year’s Winter Orchestra Concert, led by orchestra director Mr. Andrew Winslow, was actually a Fine Arts Concert featuring almost all aspects of both the Visual and Performing Arts Departments.
“It’s kind of like movie music,” choir director Mr. Justin Olvey said. “It’s a little different from what we usually do, so it’s a little more fun.”
Winslow decided to organize the collaboration this year in order to showcase students’ various talents across the Fine Arts Department.
“I thought this would be a great opportunity to collaborate with all the other visual and performing art teachers to showcase all it is that we do,” Winslow said.
However, the process of putting together the collaboration was difficult, facing difficulties in rehearsal schedules.
“Time is the biggest struggle,” Winslow said. “When you have to start dealing with timing and things being shifted…and getting more people involved [you run] into more scheduling conflicts.”
Each of the orchestras performed a variety of Christmas-themed music. String Orchestra performed We Need a Little Christmas from “Mame” by Jerry Herman and Secret Agent Sugar Plum by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Concert Orchestra performed Suite of Carols by Leroy Anderson.
Philharmonic Orchestra performed Nativity Scenes by Brett Lensley Allen alongside KhanaChor Dance Ensemble, Tech II Dancers and UHS Dance Company, with narration by Assistant Principal Robert Jauregui. Dancers’ costumes included blue flowy dresses or golden angel-like wings.
Symphony Orchestra performed A Christmas Festival by Leroy Anderson, Op. 71 Pas de deux: Intrada from “The Nutcracker” Ballet by Peter Tchaikovsky alongside Orchestra Winds and Polar Express Suite by Alan Silvestri alongside Orchestra Winds, Canta Bella and Madrigals. They concluded the concert with the traditional Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson.
While the music was beautifully played and the setting was festive, one difference between this concert and previous ones was that the majority of the music had predominant religious themes. Additionally, the narration during Nativity Scenes seemed to stand out, since audience members may have expected the focus of the concert to be primarily on music, rather than outside narrations. The extended narration preceding and following each movement included excerpts from the Bible.
“It didn’t really flow into the music,” junior Tiffany Lu said. “It was supposed to make the performance better, but it caused confusion. We didn’t expect to hear that since it was an orchestra concert.”
When asked why he chose to include the narration for the Nativity Scenes, Winslow said, “The Nativity story provides narrative context to the songs and carols that you hear around the world at this time of year…The story also heavily influenced the musical form of the five movements included within Nativity Scenes.”
On a larger scale, some also found the number of Christmas songs played by each orchestra interesting. While it is understandable that Christmas is an important part of the winter season, there could have been better song choices that included more winter or holiday themed songs rather than mostly Christmas songs, as not everyone is of Christian faith.
However, Winslow focused more on the musical quality of these pieces when choosing them. “I chose the pieces based on their pedagogical merit as well as how enjoyable they would be to listen to and play,” he said, “Finding material that fits this criteria and also is new, engaging to students, and meets them at their differentiated ability levels narrows the selection of possible pieces tremendously.”
Although the narrations to the Nativity Scenes did come off as strange to some audience members, it is evident that there were no bad intentions behind it.
“Hearing the Nativity story is no different than hearing a narrative from any other faith, and one’s own belief or disbelief in it should not affect their tolerance of it,” Winslow said. “I am proud to be on a campus where everybody is tolerant of others’ beliefs.”
Ultimately, this year’s orchestra concert was important and unprecedented for its collaboration between both the Visual and Performing Arts Departments.
“I hope that students will look back with fond memories of not just making music, but also building friendships,” Winslow said.