eautiful music filled Leffler Chapel and Performance Center on Sunday, April 21 when the moment finally came for the Elizabethtown College-Community Orchestra (ECCO) to show their musical skills, and their hard work and dedication throughout the spring semester.
Founded during the 1971-1972 academic year, the ECCO is the primary wind, string and percussion ensemble at Etown. During this semester’s concert, the orchestra performed a number of musical masterpieces, under the direction of Dr. Robert Spence, assistant professor of music and director of instrumental studies. The pieces included: “March to the Scaffold” from Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique,” “Skyfall” by Adele Adkins and the Elizabethtown College Alma Mater, which was arranged by senior Brian Wilson.
The ECCO concert turned out to be a wonderful success, greatly due to the large amount of hard work that went into the preparation of the show. The 90-member ensemble is comprised of both Etown students and members of the community. The members’ ages range from high school teenagers to adults in their 60s.
The orchestra practices twice a week months before the event, working diligently to pull the program together. Some of the members of the orchestra commute upwards of 30 minutes each way to attend practice. Dr. Spence said, “The work of putting together a concert is a lot like building a house — a house that you cannot physically see nor touch, but it is definitely a house you can see in your mind’s eye and feel in the human spirit. When the concert is ready and the musicians know their music and their individual role in the ensemble’s success, they are confident and eager to perform. To me, it is a most gratifying thing to be a part of.”
During the concert, the orchestra was accompanied by seniors soprano Anna Matlack and violinist Rachel Lane and pianist Shannon O’Leary, the winners of the Elizabethtown College concerto competition. The competition is a chance for talented musicians and vocalists to audition to be a soloist in the concert, accompanied by the orchestra. On Sunday, the duo Matlack and Lane performed a Mozart aria with a violin obbligato, while O’Leary performed the third movement of Gershwin’s Piano Concerto in F. The piano selection was upbeat and fun, and ended with a glissando, which is a slide down the keys. O’Leary said, “Gershwin is kind of a mix with classical and jazz together so it’s a different kind of piece for an orchestra to play so it should be interesting.”
The talented winners practiced long and hard, and their devotion finally paid off when they were able to perform at the concert. Since the auditions are held in the fall, the musicians needed to start practicing for them early last spring. In the summer, they were on their own to keep up with practicing, until they returned to school in the fall.
All the concerto winners said they felt ecstatic and grateful when they first won the award. Lane said, “It is something that I have never done before. I couldn’t believe it when we won. With all of the work that goes into something like this, it is an honor to be recognized. It is also bittersweet as it is my last orchestra concert. I can’t think of a better way to end my music orchestra experience at Elizabethtown than performing with Anna and playing some of my favorite orchestral repertoire.”
Spence said the concerto competition winners were all deserving. “Anna, Rachel and Shannon are terrific musicians and people of the highest caliber,” he said. “Non-musicians may find this strange, but these winners and other musicians who perform at this demanding level often live with and study these pieces of music for a year or more before they ever perform them in public. It takes a strong spirit, outstanding memory, and the desire to excel in order for these world-class pieces of music to become performance ready.”
The winners performed their best on Sunday. The strong performance was put together, entertaining and full of talent. The symphonic band concert, directed by Spence, will be this Sunday, April 28 at 3:00 p.m.