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Music School: UW Sesquicentennial Anniversary Concert

Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D Major
Beethoven: Ode to Joy
Bernstein: Three Choruses from the Lark
Traditional: Elijah Rock
Duke Ellington: Main Stem
Duke Ellington: UWIS Suite
Tchaikowsky: 1812 Overture

UW Symphony Orchestra
UW Marching Band
UW Jazz Big Band
UW Concert Choir
Patrice Michaels Bedy, soprano
Ilona Kombrink, mezzo-soprano
Lee Henning, tenor
Paul Rowe, baritone
Les Thimmig, saxophone
David Becker, conductor
Claude Cailliet, conductor
Mike Leckrone, conductor
Beverly Taylor, conductor


For live music performances, the Kohl Center may never be acoustically ideal, but as I discovered together with 500 performers and an audience of roughly 10,000, it is a perfect venue for exploding bombs indoors: the UW's Sesquicentennial Anniversay Concert was a bang-up success by any critical standard.

The UW Symphony Orchestra's rendition of the "Triumphal March and Finale" from the Mahler Symphony No. 1 opened the program with high energy and a lot of brass, continued with the obligatory National Anthem, and ended the first segment with the fourth movement of Beethoven's 9th. With David Becker ably conducting the student musicians and soloists Patrice Michaels Bedy, Ilona Kombrink, Lee Henning and Paul Rowe, the monumumentality of the Ode to Joy was a fitting tribute to the University's long record of accomplishments.

Under the expert musical direction of Beverly Taylor, the Concert Choir was delicately moving in Three Choruses from the Lark by Leonard Bernstein and got down to rhythmic fundamentals in the spiritual Elijah Rock. There were remarkable student soloists in these essentially American pieces.

Closing the first half with extraorinary energy was the UW Marching Band, conducted by Mike Leckrone. They have working a crowd pretty much down pat.

Furthering the synthesis that is central to the UW's educational and cultural missions, the UW Jazz Big Band, directed by Claude Cailliet, gave wonderful performances of Ellington's Main Stem and UWIS Suite, the latter written during Ellington's visit here in 1972. The vibrance of the composer's consummate orchestrations, coupled with amazing playing by the students and soloist Les Thimmig, made this a musical high point of the concert.

For the first and probably last time in my life, I've heard a performance of Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture with all the artillery shots in exactly the right places! The effect was wonderfully exciting as pyrotechnical bombs were exploded electrically in perfect synchronization in the empty upper tiers behind the orchestra. And oh baby, it was LOUD; I loved it!

It would not be the UW if the event didn't end with the band and the traditional arm-waves of Varsity, and so it was. It was in all a splendid celebration, and I have to say they did it right. After all, it's my alma mater too.

Isthmus, February, 1999
Copyright 1999 Jess Anderson

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