Today performance is all about new ways of experiencing the arts. Mission College Symphony launched its 2016-17 season on Sept. 25 with a mini-concert “Beautiful B&B” – Bach to Brahms – in the Gillmor Center that gave listeners a distinctively immersive experience of orchestral music.
Technically, the venue isn’t a recital hall – it’s a lecture hall with no stage. But the hall is excellent for classical and acoustic music. And last month’s Mission College Symphony concert showed just how versatile it is, offering clear and full sound for chamber music, and a surrounding, sound for full orchestra.
The program opened with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s (1756-1791) Divertimento in D major for six-piece string ensemble. That was followed by the little-known Sonata for Two Violins by Jean-Marie Leclair (1697-1764); a prolific composer for the violin whose work has been too often obscured by that of his contemporary, the musical genius Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).
The highlight of the concert was movements II and III, Andante and Poco Allegretto, from Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) Symphony No. 3 in F major. Composer and pianist Clara Schuman (1819-1896) wrote in an 1884 letter to Brahms about the work:
“From start to finish one is wrapped about with the mysterious charm of the woods and forests. All the movements seem to be of one piece, one beat of the heart, each one a jewel!
“The second [movement] is a pure idyll; I can see the worshippers kneeling about the little forest shrine, I hear the babbling brook and the buzz of the insects. There is such a fluttering and a humming all around that one feels oneself snatched up into the joyous web of Nature. The third movement is a pearl, but it is a grey one dipped in a tear of woe, and at the end the modulation is quite wonderful.”
The Gillmor Center hall’s acoustics allowed each instrument to be heard distinctly, and created the sensation that the music was embracing and dancing around the listener.
The concert concluded with a 2014 arrangement by Orfeo Mandozzi of the aria “Sheep May Safety Graze” from Bach’s Cantata 208. The lullaby hit a perfect note for the close of an Indian summer evening.
Mission College Symphony is directed by Joseph Ordaz, chair of Mission College’s Music Department and Symphony founder. The orchestra is a community-based ensemble that gives Bay Area musicians opportunities to perform a wide range of chamber and orchestral works, from classics to new compositions. Mission College Symphony celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2017, and, fittingly, the 2016-17 season is the orchestra’s biggest ever. The next performance, “Memories & Masterpieces” is Nov. 5 at Mission Santa Clara. Jan. 15, 2017 will be the orchestra’s annual Concerto Weekend at West Valley College. On March 5 in the Gillmor Center the Symphony will present “Are You Joking,” a program of famous musical jokes.
The season closes on April 23 with an anniversary concert in the soon-to-be-replaced Mission College Main Building and will feature a commissioned work for the occasion by the Bay Area’s own Nancy Bloomer Deussen – a leading contemporary American composer and a champion of concert music that’s accessible to ordinary listeners.
For information about Mission College Symphony and to listen to selections from past concerts, visit www.mcsymphony.com. You can hear selections from Bloomer Duessen’s compositions at www.nancybloomerdeussen.com.
The Gillmor Family building at Mission College honors the visionary former Santa Clara Mayor Gary Gillmor, a former high school history teacher and star Santa Clara University basketball star. While he was Mayor, Gillmor facilitated the land sale to build the Mission College campus. When the campus found it had excess land, Gillmor advanced the land leases for the Mercado shopping center and the office buildings to the south and west of the college.
Gillmor donated the seed money for the building, which was funded by 2014’s Measure H bonds.