Orchestra Stuns Audiences at Pre-UIL Concert Performance

On Wednesday, April 6, Westwood Orchestra hosted their String Pre-UIL concert at the Raymond E. Hartfield Performing Arts Center (PAC). The concert was held in two separate parts, with the Concert, Camerata, and Second Block Philharmonic orchestras performing starting from 6:30 p.m., and the Fourth Block Philharmonic and Symphony orchestras performing from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. 

The full orchestra UIL competitions, in which the orchestra and band programs collaborate, were held on March 3, so the orchestras were tasked with the challenge of refining past material while also preparing new repertoire in just over a month for String Orchestra UIL. Nevertheless, each orchestra delivered performances consistent with their usual playing standards, challenging students through advanced pieces to continue to build their skills. 

“The preview concert is a chance for families that may not have the opportunities to come to the actual UIL concert and sightreading evaluations to come out and see what we’ve been working on,” Associate Director Mr. Justin Anderson said. 

Kicking off the first part of the concert, the Camerata Orchestra showcased their work on Bozrah from Southern Harmony, Over the Sea to Skye by Annie MacLeod, and Echoes of Bartok, arranged by Walter Cummings. They were followed by the Concert Orchestra, playing A Riverside Celebration by Brian Balmages, Danny Boy, arranged by Erik Morales, and the cinematic Iditarod by Soon Hee Newbold. Finally, the Second Block Philharmonic orchestra performed the third movement of the Moorside Suite by Holst, an arrangement of Gavotte from the Symphony no. 1 in D major by Prokofiev, and October by Whitacre, featuring a viola solo played by A.J. Darwin ’22 and cello solo by Eera Gour-Gupta ’25. The Fourth Block Philharmonic orchestra commenced the second concert with Overture in D major by Gluck, The Grieved Soul by Woolstenhulme, and Spirited Voyage by Reznicow. 

“While we still have some work to do, the concert overall went really well,” Mr. Anderson said. “Everyone was really impressed with the level of the orchestras.”

The Symphony orchestra made their entrance with the riveting Allegro Molto from Sinfonia for String Orchestra by Dimitri Shostakovich. To the audience’s surprise, the orchestra performed without a conductor, as the quartet was originally meant to be played. While the movement lasted only a few minutes, it was packed with notes through its fast paced melodies, including a recurring theme meant to symbolize the composer’s name and to subtly hint at themes of the challenges faced in his life under the Soviet regime. The piece was followed by the Danse sacree et profane by Claude Debussy, featuring a prominent harp solo part played by Phyllis Stockton ’22. 

“An important solo-feature is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking; leading an orchestra is a big responsibility, and the need for communication leaves less flexibility than traditional solo work,” Stockton said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to perform such a major work in harp repertoire as a high schooler. It’s very humbling, and I couldn’t think of a more uplifting end to my four years with the Westwood Orchestra and Mr. Thompson.” 

The evening’s performances concluded with the Finale (Tema Russo) of the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings in C Major

“We performed quite an ambitious program, but personally, I liked the Debussy danses the most, because they highlighted our harpist, and most of the songs that we’ve played previously usually don’t have a very prominent harp part, and I think our preparations and our sound was overall really nice in our performance,” Hannah Lee ‘24 said. 

The final concert of the school year will be the Spring Pops Concert, held at Westwood on Wednesday, May 4, from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.