Syracuse.com The Post Standard
Linda Loomis | Contributing writer
on May 17, 2014 at 2:42 PM, updated May 17, 2014 at 2:49 PM
By Abel Searor
Symphoria wrapped up its inaugural season May 16 under the baton of principle pops conductor Sean O'Laughlin, with the musicians of Symphoria taking the audience on a tour of the great film scores of the past 75 years. The concert featured internationally renowned violinist Christian Hebel and the Syracuse Pops Chorus, making the experience a triple treat for movie music fans.
The concert opened, fittingly, with the brass introducing the familiar "20th Century Fox Fanfare" followed immediately by "A Tribute to John Williams," which included themes recognizable to anyone who has set foot in a movie theater or turned on a television set. The audience responded enthusiastically to themes from "Star Wars," "Jaws," and "Indiana Jones," as well as snippets of other unmistakable Williams' offerings.
The orchestra celebrated the 75th anniversary of "Gone With the Wind" with Max Steiner's soaring "Tara's Theme" played with power and passion. Violinist Christian Hebel took the stage for a reading of "Selections from 'Fiddler on the Roof,'" as arranged by John Williams for the 1971 film. The solo was played with passion and fire but was occasionally overtaken by the orchestra. This piece had an excellent overall effect despite a few awkward transitions
The first half closed with "The Sea Hawk Suite for Orchestra," from a 1940 swashbuckling film starring Errol Flynn, with a score by German emigrant Erich Korngold. A demanding and well-articulated brass line opened the piece, but when the full orchestra came in it was difficult not to notice the lack of sound from the strings, which were easily overpowered by the winds. A charming middle section for strings and harp was played with sentimentality and gave way to a return to the opening material to end the first half with a blast.
After intermission, local artist, Robert Oddy was introduced and thanked for funds raised in a raffle of his original piece of stained glass. The raffle was won by Oddy's fellow Pops chorus member Linda Saul and raised over $15,000 for Symphoria.
"Music from Apollo 13," featuring principle trumpet John Raschella, opened the second half, followed by a strikingly similar piece from "JFK," also featuring Raschella on another mournful trumpet solo. The concert slowed considerably at this point, with little variety in the programming. Hebel performed again on "The Kiss" from "Last of the Mohicans" and "Theme from 'Schindler's List," a beautiful, melancholy dialogue between Hebel and Alina Plourde's English horn solo, which set the audience on its feet. Hebel's final piece was the sensual tango from "Scent of a Woman," which was played with precision and artistry on all fronts.
The Syracuse Pops Chorus, under the leadership of Lou Lemos, joined Symphoria for the "Forrest Gump Suite" and "Hymn to the Fallen" from "Saving Private Ryan." The chorus sang with beautiful, rich blend, adding colorful harmonies to the sound palette. Unfortunately, the over amplification distorted the overall soundscape of the pieces. Debbie Cunningham played the piano solo from the "Forrest Gump Suite" with a nuance and musicianship, truly an asset to the ensemble.
The final concert of the season ended on an energetic but rather dark note with the "Duel of the Fates" from "The Phantom Menace." The choir did well with the Sanskrit text of this rhythmic battle sequence, and strings played with brilliance, a welcome departure from the sleepy sounds of the previous several pieces.
A revitalized and revamped symphony orchestra, Symphoria wrapped up its first full season in style, offering entertainment with pizazz to the delight of patrons who enjoy the entertainment of pops concerts.
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