A Concerto to Remember

The Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center gleamed against the sun-sizzled asphalt parking lot. An oasis of music, theater and art lay inside, where nearly every one of the 499 seats of the Broad Stage waited to be filled. The anxious crowd outside, young and old, filed in, eagerly awaiting the concertos.

Fang-Ning Lim conducted the first musical piece. "Homage March," by Edvard Grieg, is inspired by the story of Norwegian king, Sigurd Jorsalafar, famous for being the first European king to venture to the crusades in Jerusalem and Constantinople. The music incorporated the horns and percussion to entice the audience into heroic images of soldiers marching off to unknown lands of the Middle East.

The next musical piece was "Concerto in A minor, Opus 54." Written by Robert Schumann in the early 1800s, the music was deeply entrenched in the Romantic era, inspired by the poetry of that era and influenced by Beethoven's symphonies. It seemed, however, to exemplify an interpretation of love from any time period, spanning the grand heights and the tumultuous spirals the heart can take.

This concerto also featured Santa Monica College's own Rhoda Tuit on piano. Her dazzling arpeggios perfectly complimented the orchestra's strings and woodwinds. Rhoda Tuit is the chair of the music department and has served at SMC since 1979. A graduate of San Diego State University and USC, she has served on the Academic Senate and as the chair of the Sabbatical Committee.

For the final piece of the night, James Martin commanded the stage, performing the four movements of Gustav Mahler's "Symphony #1 in D Major." The first intertwined all of the instruments, surging beautifully to a crescendo, then gradually declining in tempo and pitch. The audience responded with an enthused ovation until Martin quipped playfully that it was only the first of the four movements.

The movements following were just as spectacular and the finale concluded with an uproarious culmination of booming bass and crashing cymbals.

For 24-year-old Venice resident Lori Sue Prince, the following performance was like "inviting an old friend into your home."

Martin remained onstage after the impressive performance. As the last of the concertos finished, the other artists joined him, relishing a long bow after a standing ovation. It was obvious the orchestra had exhausted the crowd with the thrill of its rollercoaster-like effect.

Originally trained in classical flute and hailing from the University of Indiana, Martin says he "caught the bug" to become a conductor. His passion for music and teaching was evident in the musical organization of his ninety musical artists.

"The musicians and I rehearsed on the battlefield [onstage] six times, which is very fast for such a complex musical piece," he said.

Approximately one-third of the musicians were comprised of students, eight of which were from high school. Twelve were paid musicians and the other half were made up of community members, Martin said. With such a varied group of people to work with, it was incredible that they played the music so effortlessly.

The next orchestra performance is scheduled for the first week of May.

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