Saturday, April 13, 2013

John Zarco symphonic wind review

    John Zarco, a graduate student at Sac State, conducted a symphonic wind ensemble concert in the Capistrano Music Recital Hall on the Sac State campus. As he made the walk from backstage to the conductor's place in front of the orchestra, I noticed that his legs moved very quickly but he was not covering that much ground. John Zarco was certainly short, to say the least. He must have had an extra large box to stand on in order to see over the musicians. Despite his short size, he carried a joyful vibe with him, and it was clear that he was very excited to be performing.
The first piece, Chester, sounded very much like the music that is played in the background at Disneyland. It had a Dixie-style sound and was very upbeat. I hadn't realized beforehand that the orchestra lacked a string section, but it was clear to me after this piece. An interesting facet of this piece was that the call and response technique was used between the woodwinds and brass on many occasions. The piece left me feeling awake and mostly upbeat, and certainly managed to keep my attention as an opener.
O Magnum Mysterium was the name of the second piece. It's tempo was considerably slower, accenting Chester nicely. I found it very soothing and peaceful. A few times I zoned out in a state of low awareness meditation, probably due to the calming effects of this piece. The trombone stood out to me as the theme leader of O Magnum Mysterium.
Handel in the Strand was a return to the Disney-sounding theme. The main melody was laid down by what sounded like the xylophone and double bass. Then it was repeated and developed upon by the clarinets and trumpets. Once again, the trombone stood out to me, playing little accenting notes or tunes here and there. This composition felt a little goofy, easy to listen to, and did not require mental strain to follow like many musical pieces I have heard. Conversely, it was not very stimulating.
America Verses was interesting. I would guess that it was written in a minor key, because the overall feel of the piece was deep and emotionally intense, in a depressing way. The composition was portions of a few patriotic songs, spliced together and developed upon. This piece kept my interest perfectly, especially because my mind was beginning to wander after Handel in the Strand. Part of my interest was held by the many pitch changes, which cause me to cringe every time I hear them, for some reason. It reminds me of when someone is singing off-key. At the end, three chimes were played,  vaguely reminding me of a doorbell.
Zarco's last performance piece was named First Suite in Eb by Gustav Holst. It could be likened  closely to a marching band. Percussion was used throughout to accent and enunciate, especially by the cymbals and snare drum. A short little oboe solo was inserted in the middle of the composition. This was my favorite piece, leaving me awake and putting a nice cap on the evening's presentation.
As a side note, all of the pieces conducted by John Zarco were relatively short – the entire five piece concert only lasted about forty minutes. This worked to my advantage because as a novice in classical music listening I have a hard time sitting still for very long. There were no intermissions either, which probably helped the concert remain abbreviated in length.

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