SMC Symphony orchestrates masterful show to a full house

The drum began to thud and the snare of the Aaron Copland piece, “Fanfare for the Common Man,” sounded like thunder. Trumpets blared out an “Assembly of the Buglers”-esque tune, which excited the crowded hall at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on Sunday, Oct. 7. With the audiences’ full attention, opening conductor Fang-Ning Lim wrapped up the piece and silently introduced the Santa Monica College Symphony Orchestra by gesturing for them to stand.The SMC Symphony is a college/community orchestra that performs two concerts each semester on the Broad Stage at the Performing Arts Center. There are 24 registered SMC students in the orchestra, as well as community members, professionals and some returning unregistered students, said SMC music department chair James Martin. Violinists and cellists filled vacant sections of chairs and set up stands with their sheet music, and a Steinway and Sons grand piano rose from the ground on a platform. SMC faculty member Lin-San Chou glided toward the piano in a floor length, dark blue strapless dress. Chou played with her hands, anxious to perform, as the orchestra, conducted by Martin, began Mozart’s “Elvira Madigan.” Northwestern University employee Deborah Williams said she believes that Chou has a long career ahead of her. Williams’ brother taught Chou at Ohio State University. “She was able to play a pretty quick paced piece,” Williams said about the solo Chou had in “Elvira Madigan.” “She did it beautifully, it didn’t seem mechanical.” Chou spoke highly of the SMC orchestra and said she is looking forward to the next time she gets to share the stage with them. She received three flower bouquets by the end of the evening. Some mingled outside the hall, but most waited in their seats for the second half. A harp was wheeled onto the stage, which made the orchestra seem more complete, but without the leading presence of the piano in the second half, the pieces were strewn together. The second half of the concert opened with the entire orchestra performing “Symphonie Fantastique” by Hector Berlioz. Berlioz’ piece is lengthy, and takes about half an hour to perform in its entirety, but the orchestra pulled it off in amazing fashion. Divided into five different parts, the piece took the audience through the opium-induced journey of a young man in love. Beginning with an upbeat rhythm, the first couple of movements include the young man meeting his love and taking a journey through the countryside. The smooth and relaxing sounds lull the audience into a comfortable state, unaware of the impending danger that lies ahead. The fourth movement completely changes tune as the opium takes over. Feeling as if his love is unrequited, the young man embarks deep into darkness. The audience marches with him to the guillotine as he imagines himself being executed. The haunting melody is complete with a fierce percussion section as the procession marches on. Transitioning into the fifth and final movement, the young man is killed, only to awaken to a gathering of witches. The fast paced, quick tempo transports the audience into their celebration of man’s death. Wild rhythms and powerful tunes resonated throughout the room as witches of all sorts come together for the festivities. The melodies, at times frightening, kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The piece ends in dramatic fashion, building up to a climax that had the audience explode into furious cheers and applause. The audience was pleased with the concert, but Chou’s piano piece, accompanied by the orchestra, dominated the after-show talk. “There’s nothing like a little Mozart on a Sunday,” Williams said.