On Sunday November 18, 2018, I had the pleasure of attending The Atlanta University Center Symphony Orchestra’s performance: “A Prelude to Christmas,” at the Ray Charles Performing Arts Center on the campus of Morehouse College, which was directed and conducted by Dr. Roumena Georgieva. The Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the Clark Atlanta University’s Departments of Music put on this dynamic show. There were student musicians from all three schools and members of the Spelman College Glee Club, Morehouse College Glee Club, and Clark Atlanta University Philharmonic Society, which made up one choir for this performance. I thoroughly enjoyed this performance. I am not new to the sounds of Symphony Orchestras so I had an idea of what to expect.
The Symphony Orchestra’s performance was very well put together, polished, and professional. The String section was comprised of four first violinists, four second violinists, three violists, four cellists, and two double bassists. The string section has always been my favorite section in an orchestra because I love the pure note quality and soft tone that these instruments generally have. The string section did a wonderful job with their dynamics and note playing. There were just a couple of times throughout the show that I heard a couple of clashing notes but they quickly corrected themselves. There were also a couple of times when some of the violinists struggled to keep the beat of the song, but they quickly corrected those mistakes as well. Overall I think this section performed beautifully. The next section I’d like to discuss is the Woodwind section. There were four flutists, one oboist, one clarinetist, and one bassoonist. This was a rather small woodwind section, only seven people, however their sound did not reflect that number at all. This section was dynamic in sound, which made up for their small numbers. The final sections of the orchestra that I’d like to discuss are the Brass and Percussion sections, which were comprised of two French horn players one trumpet player, two trombone players, one tuba player, and one percussion player. This section was also rather small but because of the louder nature of these instruments they didn’t need many more musicians in this section anyway. This section did a great job with their dynamics and making sure they didn’t overpower the rest of the orchestra. Each section did a great job of blending with their section and the rest of the orchestra. If you listened closely you could pick out specific instructs but none stood out mistakenly. Rarely did I hear certain instruments sticking out if they weren’t performing a solo. The orchestra displayed a clear mastery of their music, and I was impressed with their performance.
Next, I’d like to discuss the performance of Dr. Roumena Georgieva. She is an esteemed violinist, concertmaster, and conductor with over fifty years of experience. I don’t know much about conducting, so I cant give a detailed analysis of her performance however; I do think she did a great job of conducting such a diverse group of student musicians.
The final cohorts of musicians that I’d like to discuss are the Spelman, Morehouse, and Clark Atlanta vocalists that made up the choir. There were four sopranos, three altos, three tenors, and two basses. This was a rather small choir to accompany the orchestra but since the focus was on the instruments the balance worked nicely. This group of singers had a nice blanked sound, rich tone of voice, and sang all of the correct notes, from what I could tell. They blended perfectly with the orchestra and one another. I was impressed with their ability to adjust their dynamics in order to fit perfectly with the symphony.
My favorite song that they performed was the concert closer “Journey” from the video game Destiny by Skye Lewin and Michael Salvatori. I enjoyed this song the most because it utilized every instrument in the orchestra and ended the show on a high note. The choir sang, the woodwinds played, and drums sounded as well. This was a dynamic piece and the orchestra did a superb job of quickly changing their dynamics as written in the music. I was impressed with the string solos throughout this piece: they were played beautifully and harmonically. It was also interesting to learn that this was a song originally written for a video game. Most symphony orchestra pieces are written specifically written for the stage. This was a unique choice of music.
I thoroughly enjoyed “A Prelude to Christmas” performance. I appreciate the showcasing of Black, college educated, scholarly, musicians playing classical music. It is a contrast to the popular notion that African Americans don’t often play classical music. This show was beautifully put together and nicely performed. This was my first time seeing the Atlanta University Center Symphony Orchestra perform but it definitely will not be the last!