The Myrtle Woldson Performing Arts center was packed as the Gonzaga Symphony Orchestra began its first performance in the new building.
“In this concert I wanted to feature two very distinct aspects: one is to make the hall the star and put the hall to the test and really see what it is capable of,” said Kevin Hekmatpanah, director of GSO and professor of music.
The concert began with “Overture to the Consecration of the House, Op. 124” by Ludwig van Beethoven. After the intermission, the orchestra played two more pieces: “Russian Easter Overture, Op. 36” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov and “Pines of Rome” by Ottorino Respighi.
“You will particularly see this in the second half you’ll hear the softest to the loudest, certain solos in different sections and you’ll hear the new Stienway Concert grand piano,” said Hekmatpanah.
“Pines of Rome” got the biggest reaction from the audience. The piece contained many tonal shifts and changes of pace as well as instrumentalists positioned on the upper level of the theater and a recording of birds.
“I loved that piece,” said Bethany Lunden, a sophomore at GU. “It was really cool because all of a sudden we saw these lights come on and then the director turned around and the people above us began playing. All the sounds going on in all the different directions and as it got louder and louder it made me laugh and then at the end I almost cried.”
“It gave me chills,” said Karen Samsen, a mother of one of the violinists in GSO.
Samsen said the two singers: Katrina Baber and Rachael Gowen, both seniors at GU, performed their song beautifully.
“The piece that you’re going to hear by Chausson, I asked the soloists what they thought of it and Rachael said she thought it was about man’s relationship with nature and Katrina said it was about the interaction of religion and science,” said Hekmatpanah.
Rylan Virnig, a violin major and a junior at GU, performed a song that was familiar to the vast majority of the audience. Hekmatpanah says of Virnig that he looks forward to the day where he can say ‘I knew him when…” and he wasn’t the only person in awe of Virnig’s performance that night.
“I really loved Rylan’s piece. I grew up listening to Mozart and his little solo in the middle of [Russian Easter Overture] was amazing,” said Lunden.
Overall the concert was a hit for both the audience and the members of the GSO, who were able to both open up their new home and end their season with a diverse set of pieces while featuring some of the best musicians that Gonzaga has to offer.