August 13, 2020

‘Strictly Strings!’: An orchestra without woodwind

By Michelle Lampariello
Features Assistant

The TCNJ Orchestra performed beautifully during its “Strictly Strings!” event on Wednesday, Oct. 26, in Mayo Concert Hall. The string orchestra consisted of 26 violinists, seven violists, seven cellists and five bassists. The violinists were split into two sections that each performed a different part.

The orchestra performed four pieces, three of which were conducted by viola adjunct Professor Harold Levin, a violist, composer and conductor. The first piece, “The Old Church,” originally composed by the late Stephen Paulus, was conducted by senior music major Steve Mejias.

Mejias introduced “The Old Church” with a poem of the same title by Della B. Vik. “The Old Church” set the scene and mood of the piece with lines such as, “The old church leans awry and looks quite odd / But it is beautiful to us, and God.”

Mejias explained prior to the performance of the piece that Paulus was able to sustain his career “solely on commissions,” which was a rare feat for a musician.

The TCNJ Orchestra performs as one entity, despite having many members. (Andrew Cislak / Staff Photographer)
The TCNJ Orchestra performs as one entity, despite having many members. (Andrew Cislak / Staff Photographer)

The second piece performed by the orchestra was “Symphony Number One” by William Boyce. Levin described how Boyce composed eight symphonies, but eventually went deaf. According to Levin, even Boyce’s largest symphonies were string pieces and had very little, if any, woodwind involvement.

“CY Music,” composed in 2010 by Levin, was the third piece performed by the TCNJ Orchestra. Due to the modernity of the piece, it is different from what the string orchestra is used to performing.

“I decided the players needed some experience playing some 20th century style pieces,” Levin said. “They don’t play music like this all that often, and they’re doing a really nice job.”

The average audience member would never have been able to tell that “CY Music” was the hardest piece for the orchestra.

“It’s nothing like anything most of us have done before,” said Christopher McEwan, a sophomore music education major. “You have to make sure you’re really paying attention to the conductor and listening to everyone as a whole.”

“If you think you’re playing it wrong, you’re actually playing it right,” said Lorena Limato, a junior music education major.

The fourth and final piece performed by the orchestra was “Serenade In E Minor, Opus 20” by Edward Elgar. This piece was well-liked by both the TCNJ Orchestra and Elgar himself.

“Elgar said on several occasions that this was his favorite piece,” Levin said. “This was one of his best known pieces.”

Limato and McEwan both expressed that Elgar’s piece was their personal favorites in the show to perform. “Elgar’s piece is very expressive, but in a fun way,” Limato said.

“I really like the Romantic era,” McEwan said. “And just the way it came together as a whole, I thought it was a beautiful piece.”

The String Orchestra not only came together beautifully during Elgar’s piece, but throughout each piece during the concert.

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