Collaborative “AT SEA” concert creates vivid imagery through music

On Sunday Nov. 20, Wadsworth Auditorium was filled with images of pulsing waves and freedom as the Geneseo Symphony Orchestra and Geneseo Festival Chorus collaborated to present the "AT SEA" concert.

James Walker, who conducted most of the concert, chose the slogan "AT SEA" based on the pieces selected for this performance. The music picked included Felix Mendelssohn's "Fingal's Cave Overture, Op.26" and Howard Hanson's "Song of Democracy" and "Symphony No. 7: A Sea Symphony," both based on poems by Walt Whitman.

Junior Louis Lohraseb conducted the orchestra in the first piece – Mendelssohn's – with energy and vigor. Based on his work in "AT SEA" and Kaleidoscope, Lohraseb is certainly on his way to becoming a great conductor.

"The biggest problem is making sure [Lohraseb] only does 20 times the amount of work he should be doing instead of 40 times," Walker said. "He is now beginning to stabilize his technique to be better and more efficient."

Walker then took over as the Festival Chorus entered the stage. Its force combined with that of the Symphony Orchestra produced an exquisite sound. Junior Justin Baratta said together they were "well-balanced, neither group overpowering the other."

As the performance progressed, the feeling of the sea below one's feet and the imagery associated with that became increasingly evident. The chorus reflected the grand sense of freedom a sailor has as they plunge into the unknown, while the orchestra embodied the pulsing waves crashing against the ship.

"The [Festival] Chorus is a wonderful addition to the musical offerings here," Walker said. "It couples students and townspeople and is even dependent on that relationship. You get mature voices from the townspeople which help the voices of the college students which may be less experienced."

Lohraseb confirmed that this is the only organization in the Geneseo music department that has members of the community and students in collaboration. The orchestra is a combination of Geneseo faculty and students, most of whom are not actually music majors.

Both Walker and Lohraseb stressed how impressive it is that both ensembles were able to work together so efficiently. They agreed that "both groups have extreme workloads and they are not music majors for the most part. Being able to couple them together in a relatively professional way speaks to the dedication and resolve of these student musicians."

There are a few things, however, both groups could do better in preparation for future performances. The Festival Chorus had a difficult time pinpointing their attacks with consonants: there were many drawn out "ssss" and "t-t-t" sounds, almost detracting from the performance. The Symphony Orchestra could end notes sooner to give more room for the transition.

"It was a beautiful arrangement which was even more beautifully performed," Baratta said.