Symphony ready for challenge

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By Tris DeRoma

The audience may be ready for the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra’s Friday concert, but is the Los Alamos Symphony Orchestra ready?

This year’s Fall concert features just three works, but they are doozies.

They all date from the 19th Century area of classical music, when orchestras were big and brassy and the music was intricate and dynamic.

This year, the orchestra will be tackling the “Symphonie Fantastique” and the “Roman Carnival,” by Berlioz, and “Espana,” by Chabrier.

LASO Concertmaster Brian Newnam said he believes the orchestra is up to the challenge.

“Symphonie Fantastique” is one of the major masterpieces of the 19th century. It’s quite difficult, but really colorful, very dramatic,” he said. “Everyone wants to play it because it’s so difficult to put together with the tempo changes, and lots of brass.”

Known as an early romantic piece, “Symphonie Fantastique” swirls with emotion. The conductor wrote it to express his anguish over at first was an unrequited love affair.

Solos will be hear throughout the piece featuring the flute, the oboe, the clarinet, horns and violins.
The other Berlioz piece, “Roman Carnival Overture”, features a big solo by the English horn. It is taken from Berlioz’ “Opera Benevento Cellini.”

“Espana,” by Emmanuel Chabrier, is a short rhapsody for a full orchestra. Chabrier was inspired to write the 1883 composition after a recent visit to Spain. Conductor David Chavez said that though the piece is a smaller composition than the others, it’s no less intricate and challenging.

“It has to be done well in order to sound simple,” Chavez said.

“Symphonie Fantastique” will be 40 minutes long and take place in the second half of the concert. The first half will comprise of “Roman Carnival Overture” and “Espana.”

“The big pressure will be in the second half,” Newnam said.

Newnam is in charge of the getting the bowing charts to the string players, an important step toward getting the sound of the three compositions just right.

“The bowings are rather crucial to able to be able to play the piece well. If you have people just bowing any old way, you do not get a synchronized sound,” Newnam said. “Bowings help section the sound like a single violin. It’s hard to play, but uniformity helps.”

Newnam started with the orchestra in the Spring of 1973, and is 77-years-old. He is the first violinist in the orchestra and can also play viola.

Newnam feels though that this is going to be a very enjoyable concert for everyone.

He and the rest of the orchestra have always loved playing for a Los Alamos audience.

“The Los Alamos audience is of course very generous and very supportive, unless of course we really mess it up,” Newnam quipped. They’ve taken into account that not everyone on the orchestra is a professional.”

The concert will be Nov. 2, 7 p.m. at the Crossroads Bible Church. Donations are accepted.