Fall Concerts Present Unique Challenges for BYU Bands and Orchestras

Performances this year feature a nod to Beethoven’s Birthday

Streamed performance schedule:

  • 11/10 Symphonic Band, 7:30 p.m.
  • 11/11 Symphony Orchestra, 7:30 p.m.
  • 11/12 Wind Symphony, 7:30 p.m.
  • 11/14 Baroque Ensemble, 7:30 p.m.
  • 11/16 Philharmonic, 6 p.m.
  • 11/18 Philharmonic, 7:30 p.m.

From an exploration of cinematic scores to a celebration of Beethoven’s birth, BYU’s instrumental ensembles have six unforgettable performances in store for virtual audiences in November.

The Symphonic Band, directed by Kirt Saville, will feature music of the movies. This program explores some of the greatest film scores ever written, including “ET: The Extra-terrestrial,” “Harry Potter,” “Pirates of the Caribbean” and more. 

“Performing without a live audience will be a first for us, but we are eager for the opportunity to share in the beauty and power of music-making with our livestreaming audience,” Saville said. “We are indeed grateful for the technology that makes it possible for our collective artistic voices to be heard and shared.”

Christian Smith directs the Symphony Orchestra, slated to perform on November 11. Some of Classical music’s most beloved works will be on display, including Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1” and Bizet’s “Carmen Suite No. 2.” The orchestra will open the concert with “Overture to Egmont,” a nod to the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth. 

The orchestra, typically 85 members strong, could only accept 60 musicians this year due to COVID restrictions. “This has been the most unusual year for ensembles, in that we have had to rehearse in smaller groups for physical distancing purposes,” Smith said. “For the Symphony Orchestra, we meet with the winds/brass/percussion on Mondays and with the strings on Wednesdays. By the time of our performance, we will have met all together only three times as a full orchestra. Nonetheless, we are all grateful to be able to perform at all this semester.”

50 brass, woodwind and percussion instruments make up the talented BYU Wind Symphony, directed by Don Peterson. The group performs pieces from Classical to contemporary, and has toured in more than 26 countries. 

Three major works will be featured on November 12: “Festive Overture” by Shostakovich, “Angels in the Architecture” by Frank Ticheli and “Fantasy Variations on a Theme by Niccolo Paganini” by James Barnes. Come for the classics, stay for the surprises!

On November 14, Alexander Woods will direct the BYU Baroque Ensemble, an early music chamber orchestra performing on original instruments created by the Violin Making School of America. 

“The Baroque Ensemble is excited to present masterworks of the baroque by Arcangelo Corelli and George Frederick Handel, as well as lesser-known works by two early French composers: Marc-Antoine Charpentier and Joseph Bologne (a composer of African descent),” Woods said. “These pieces convey warmth, energy and peace. Despite limitations in rehearsing and meeting together, we are grateful to be able to present the program of this outstanding early music.”

The 98-member Philharmonic Orchestra, directed by Kory Katseanes, is the flagship orchestra in the BYU School of Music. In addition to programs that feature the greatest classical repertoire, recent guest artists have included such luminaries as Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell, Joe Alessi and Marc-André Hamelin.

The orchestra will present two evenings of performances with two different programs, both celebrating the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven.

On November 16 the orchestra will perform Weber’s “Der Freischütz Overture,” Tchaikovsky’s “Francesca da Rimini” and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 3, “Eroica.”

On November 18 the orchestra will perform Berlioz’s “Roman Carnival Overture,” Elgar’s “Enigma Variations” and Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto, “Emperor,” with Scott Holden on piano.

Although they faced strict safety measures in the weeks of preparation leading up to these performances, faculty and students proved up to the challenge.

“The students and I have celebrated the opportunity to rehearse and make music together,” Saville said. “Granted, we can’t do it in the same manner as before, especially when considering the need for temperature checks, numbers of students allowed in a room, masks, bell covers, air filters and required distancing. Yet we have rejoiced in our ability to make music together. Each rehearsal has been a delight and rediscovery of the joy that can be found in adding our unique instrumental voices to bring music to life.”