UNM Symphony Orchestra and Choirs showcases 'A Concert for Healing' - Albuquerque Journal

UNM Symphony Orchestra and Choirs showcases ‘A Concert for Healing’

UNM symphony director Matthew Forte directing the orchestra. (Courtesy of UNM Symphony Orchestra)

What could be more joyful than a concert at Popejoy Hall?

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5, the University of New Mexico Symphony Orchestra and Choir is performing “A Concert of Healing.”

The UNM Symphony Orchestra is directed by Matthew Forte while the UNM Choirs is directed by David Edmonds.

“Usually the way these choral and orchestral rehearsals work is we rehearse separately for most of it because the issues for both ensembles are so different,” Forte said. “Then this coming week is basically going to be about putting us together and making sure we agree on things and everything is in good shape.”

Composer Andrea Clearfield

The evening is centered on two premieres, one a statewide premiere while the other is a world premiere, of pieces by nationally-acclaimed composer Andrea Clearfied. These two pieces, named “Singing into Presence” and “Pan With Us” are inspired by poetry from Robert Frost and Catherine O’Meara and offers a meaningful and reflective space for both the performers and audience. “We will have a huge amount of performers on stage when it all is said and done, probably around 160 people,” Forte said. ” ‘Singing into Presence’ is brand new, we just received a score in parts around a month and a half ago and no one’s ever heard it before.”

The piece itself that will be performed during “Singing into Presence,” is a poem called “Triage,” written by Catherine O’Meara.

“In the way that our composer has set the poem, it talks about the experience of musicians in the pandemic, so working on that, and bringing a new piece to life has been really great and gratifying,” Forte said. “For a lot of our students, this is something they’ve never done before, which is awesome,” Forte said.

“Pan With Us” by Robert Frost details a man wanting more out of life than it can offer.

“Well, that piece is an earlier piece of Andrea’s, she has kind of arranged it for this specific occasion,” Forte said. “So that piece is just really joyful as it is about Han from Greek mythology discovering the flute and then the piece ends with the question what should he play.”

One piece details the opportunities of music making while the other describes the pain of not performing.

” ‘Pan’ is basically about, in this context, how we were used to making music, you know, prior to COVID-19 and the joy of that,” Forte said. “Then, ‘Singing in the Presence’ is more about how that was taken away and what it’s been like to get that back after, as we are coming out of the pandemic.”

Despite COVID-19 running rampant, the orchestra has pushed through.

“It has been really challenging rehearsing in the middle of the pandemic and I cannot tell you how proud I am of the students to persevere under kind of adverse conditions,” Forte said. “I hope you really enjoy the repertoire because it is really great music and important music.”

The UNM Orchestra has come a long way during this semester.

“In terms of this semester, our department began it in a difficult spot, both with the pandemic and with the unexpected unfortunate passing of a colleague of mine, our director of bands Eric Rombach-Kendall,” Forte said. “So in addition to their technical growth, and musical growth, it is just nice to see, even though they are tired it is nice to see the students seeming like themselves again.”

The UNM Symphony Orchestra hard at work. (Courtesy of UNM Symphony Orchestra)

Thankfully, the musicians were able to perform in front of audiences again.

“I don’t want to quite say they’ve rediscovered their love of music, because they certainly loved music during COVID, But maybe they rediscovered the joy of performing,” Forte said.

For musicians, live events are instrumental.

“I think almost every musician that I know has experienced a sense of really profound loss at not being able to perform with other musicians and for people,” Forte said. ” It is a huge part of our kind of emotional lives to be able to communicate in this way.”

Masks are required and the event area is being sanitized.

UNM hopes viewers pack the halls and support the students this week.

“I hope they appreciate just how hard our students had been working under not really great conditions,” Forte said.” I don’t know of anything that connects people more than then live music making,”

Though music is readily available in this day and age, it can not replace the aura of a live performance.

“It is just something about being in a space with another person and being with him there,” Forte said. “You could go on Spotify, and listen to any of the works we’re going to perform but it’s really not the same.”

“A Concert for Healing” presented by UNM choir and symphony orchestra
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 5
WHERE: Popejoy Hall, University of New Mexico
HOW MUCH: $12.50, plus fees at unmtickets.com

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