[A–    JMS]

On Wednesday, October 28, I attended The Queens College Chamber Winds performance in the Lefrak Concert Hall. This was not just any concert; my friend Elyssa was a performer, playing the euphonium. As one would expect, there were all different types of wind instruments, consisting of the basic flutes and trumpets, along with three different types of saxophones, French horns, trombones, and of course, the euphonium. The audience was mostly comprised of proud parents and other assorted family members, friends, and students. Because it was during free hour (in the early afternoon), the mood was very casual and relaxed. It was certainly not a black tie event as almost everyone there was wearing jeans.

The concert itself was comprised of four short pieces, two pieces of pure music and two of program music. The first piece used mostly minor, syncopated chords. This set a very sad tone that was further expressed through the suddenly dimmed lighting. The piece began with one musician playing her clarinet while the other eight clarinets echoed back her single minor chord. Eventually, the other instruments joined in, with the tubas and trombones playing louder than the other instruments, adding to the aura of sadness that pervaded the room throughout the piece. What also helped exaggerate the mood was the speed of the music. The tempo was kept at a very “adagio”, pace, slowly drawing the sadness and misery from the audience. While the music never really sped up, it did consistently rise in volume until hitting its crescendo, and ending shortly thereafter.

The second piece was very different. What was interesting in this piece was that, unlike in the first set, non-wind instruments were used. The piano, two cellos, and five students playing percussion were added to the mix. The result was an upbeat and happy piece. The instruments in this piece mainly used major chords, especially the piano. Throughout the second piece, the music was loud and never reached a crescendo. The tempo was fast, with periods of both regular, and irregular beats, causing a sense of excitement to explode in the audience. What made this piece even more interesting was that at certain points in the music, the director of the concert went up to a podium, and started narrating from a prepared speech about the music. I felt it added something very unique to the music. Overall, it was a great foil to the first piece by brilliantly contrasting the major and minor chords.

The third piece started out very low and soft. The tubas began to play a little louder than the other instruments, and even from my seat in the back row, I could tell they were enjoying their spotlight. Then, when the tubas were finished with their solo, the music suddenly became very loud.  All of the instruments played together, as if they were introducing a royal family. Then, the soft music returned, this time, using major chords. This evoked a strong feeling of happiness in me, and also a longing to hear more (because who would not want to continue to feel happy?) The director returned to the stage and narrated a speech about President Abraham Lincoln while the music continued to play strongly in the background. I did not enjoy this narration as much as the first one because it became very difficult to hear what the director was saying over the loud music. In the first narration, the music and speech played off of each other, greatly enhancing them both. However, in the second narration, it seemed like the music was drowning out the narration and the narration was distracting the audience from the music- not a very good combination.

The fourth piece was completely enchanting. It started off with bells and flutes, playing soft, high pitched, major chords. The effect was like something out of a Disney movie. When I closed my eyes and allowed the music to wash over me, I imagined that I was watching Cinderella dancing with her prince at the Grand Ball. When all of the instruments played together in unison, the room vibrated with music, but it was not deafening noise. Actually, it was quite the contrary. The music was an intensely beautiful, spirit- lifting, heavenly experience that can be summed up in two words: pure joy. It was a consistently restful and slow piece. It was comprised of regular beats to allow the audience to be fully at ease. There was no crescendo, no overlapping melodies, and no narration. Its repeated melody did a great job of relaxing everyone in the room. This piece certainly fulfilled the cliché and “saved the best for last.”

As for the euphonium, I was greatly looking forward to hearing it played, not only because of my friend, but also because I had never heard one before. It, therefore, was disappointing to me that the euphonium could neither be seen nor heard throughout the concert. It was stationed behind two cellos, obscuring its view from the audience. Also, because the euphonium was not given a solo, it was hard to distinguish its uniqueness from the other wind instruments.

As you can see, the four pieces played in the Chamber Winds concert were vastly different. The ones that I enjoyed the most were the opening and closing pieces, even though those two portions of the concert were nothing alike. The first selection was played in all minor chords, creating a sensation of sadness that permeated my mind and rhythmically coursed through the body. The other, however, contained only major chords, played softly like a calm breeze. Perhaps the sequence of music was arranged in that order to generate strong feelings to awaken the audience and then, at the end of the performance, wind the audience down when it was time to leave. Unfortunately, the feeling of complete serenity died away the second the piece was over and the applause began. When the audience began to file out, my two friends and I ran up to the stage to congratulate the greatest (and only) euphonium musician we had ever heard.  I smiled as I thought of the tranquility that had simply evaporated a moment ago, and instead, left me with a concert of my own playing happy and irregular chords in my head the rest of the day.