Artist in Residence program brings Asheville Symphony to WCU

The Asheville Symphony, photo:

The Asheville Symphony, photo:

Dramatic, sweet, hair-raising, emotional—all of these words can be used to describe the music in the air at Western Carolina University’s Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center (BAC) on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

The Asheville Symphony again joined forces with WCU’s School of Music in a long-standing musical tradition that is Artist in Residence. The program brings WCU percussion, brass and woodwind students together with the Asheville Symphony string section in an impressive performance of musical talent. Tuesday evening’s concert consisted of three works from the 19th and 20th centuries and was conducted by Asheville Symphony Music Director and Conductor, Daniel Meyer.

The string musicians of the Asheville Symphony and WCU students executed a presentation of the intense and eerie “Overture from Nabucco”, which is a part of a biblical-based Italian opera composed by Verdi.

The second work of the evening came from Numbers 1, 2 and 5 of Antonin Dvořák’s Slavonic Dances, Opus 72, composed in 1886. The three pieces, “Poco Adagio”, “Allegretto grazioso” and “Molto vivace,” were performed in reverse order, and their tones ranged from cheerful, quick-paced and dance-like to solemn and dark as the piece progressed.

The final work of the night was a fantastic and haunting rendition of Howard Hanson’s Symphony No. 2. Opus 30 “Romantic”, written in 1930. The orchestra performed all three movements of the composition, which resembled cinematic melodies. The music of the strings, percussion, brass and woodwinds held dramatic and romantic undertones, and emotions could be followed throughout the piece, as if watching scenes from a film.

As the show came to a close, the symphony received a standing ovation, and whistles of appreciation could be heard bouncing off the walls of the theater. The crowd cheered extra loud for the WCU student musicians as each section of the orchestra stood and was recognized in turn.

The concert was a ticketed event, charging $12 for adults and $5 for students and children. According to the School of Music official page, proceeds from this performance series are used to support the ongoing partnership of the Asheville Symphony and the School of Music.

According to School of Music Director, John West, this program has been creating sweet melodies, like those heard in Tuesday’s concert, since 1996. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, though. Artist in Residence experienced sporadic scheduling and unsure funding in the beginning, and several years they had no concerts at all. Luckily, over the last two decades, the program has picked up and prospered.

“Students benefit from this collaboration by getting the opportunity to perform standard orchestral repertoire with a professional string section,” said West. According to him, this is the only chance they get to play with an orchestra, and students are thrilled at the opportunity.

Alexandra Cebula, a WCU junior who played the bass trombone in Tuesday night’s concert, said working with the Asheville Symphony is amazing. “The professionalism is incredible and I felt pushed to play the absolute best that I am able,” she said after the show.

There is no shortage of appreciation for the program within the School of Music community, and the WCU student musicians can speak to that.

“Playing with the Asheville Symphony is one of the best opportunities I’ve been given at WCU.  The performance was absolutely great,” said Caitlin Joyner, a WCU junior music education major who played the horn Tuesday night.

The next Artist in Residence orchestra concert will be held on Thursday, March 3, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in the BAC Theatre. Tickets will be available for purchase on Jan. 19.