A not-so silent night: Rensselaer Music Association’s Winter Concert
Rensselaer’s Music Association presented its annual Winter Concert at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center, featuring Rensselaer’s Studio Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra, and Symphonic Band. Led by Robert Button and Brandon Huang, the Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra performed an energetic set. They started off with Button’s composition “Midtown Mambo” before performing his arrangement of Hamilton and Lewis’s “How High the Moon w/ ornithology,” a twist on the famous melody of “How High the Moon” to Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology”.
Following “Ornithology”, the ACJO performed another mambo, “Softly as a Morning Sunrise” by Oscar Hammerstein and Sigmond Romberg, where the pianist echoed the main theme after the soloists took turns in interpreting the melody. Led by the rhythm section (piano, bass, drums), Mongo Santamaria’s “Sofrito” was unique from the other works ACJO performed, gradually adding layers of sound as more instrumentalists came in. This work sounded like a conversation between the soft-spoken piano and the fiery interjections of the trumpet, backed by the entire ensemble.
Rensselaer’s Flute Choir was directed by Olivia Mariani ’22. The group of four performed Catherine McMichael’s three-movement work “Falconer”. The second movement “Snow on Ben Nevis” reminded me of an Irish jig and was my favorite movement from the Flute Choir’s performance. “Aire of the Falconer” concluded the mystical performance.
After a 10-minute intermission, the Rensselaer Studio Orchestra took to the stage under the direction of Joseph Bonville with Prokofiev’s “Troika.” The Studio Orchestra proceeded to accompany vocalist Harshil Patel ’23, who sang “A Summer Place” by Mack Discant and Max Steiner. Since the Studio Orchestra was designed to promote student compositions and arrangements, other students’ works were featured in the concert. Sergei Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic “Prelude in C Sharp”, arranged by Grant Block ’21 used an impressive range of instrumentation, ending with the flourish of bows and violinists’ fingers climbing up to the top of their fingerboards.
Bonville’s arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” started with a solo violin. As the first clarinet joined in and the entire orchestra came in, the experience was reminiscent of a movie.
The arrangement of “Nothing Else Matters” by Sandor Magyar ’22 was a wonderful choice to introduce the audience to Rensselaer’s very own Percussion Ensemble. This unique work was comforting to listen to, and it was the highlight of the concert for me. After Magyar’s arrangement, the Percussion Ensemble performed Tom Nazziola’s composition of “5th Floor Annex”. Then, the audience was invited to sing along to a medley of Christmas songs with the Percussion Ensemble.
To conclude the concert, Rensselaer’s Symphonic Band performed Steven Reineke’s “The Witch and The Saint”, John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood”, Ernesto Lecuona’s intense “Malagueña” and the finale of Leroy Anderson’s classic “Sleigh Ride”. I enjoyed watching the Rensselaer community come together to watch each other perform and sing along to holiday tunes. I’m looking forward to their Pops! Concert next February.