Strong Winds on a Dark Sea: UConn Wind Ensemble's triumphant performance

The UConn Wind Ensemble, led by conductor and director Jeffery Renshaw, performs "Dark Sea" in von der Mehdan Recital Hall on Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016. The piece payes homage to the ocean in two parts with varying themes and arrangements. (Jason Jiang/The Daily Campus) 

As the dreary rain clouds cleared last night, the von der Mehden Recital hall was almost full as parents, music lovers and students alike sat quietly for UConn’s Wind Ensemble to take the stage. The band is composed of over 40 music students, most of which are majoring in their performance of their instruments of choice.

With a wide range of instruments ready, the band took the stage in a welcoming applause.  As the stage went dark, only illuminated by a few blue stage lights, the audience became hushed in anticipation. Tonight’s presentation: Dark Sea, homage to the ocean in two parts with varying themes and arrangements. Part one titled “Immersion” and part two titled “Wine-Dark Sea,” both conducted by the critically acclaimed Dr. Jeffery Renshaw.

Part one of the show included three pieces all reflecting different parts of the ocean and its wondrous life. “Depth,” “Surface” and “Beneath” were the titles of each piece. They were accompanied by a unique backing to the band as well as a high-resolution slide show of various images to invoke thoughts of the sea. “Depth” was given photos of the shore, “Surface” pictures of marine birds of prey, and “Beneath” with various sea life amongst coral reefs and ocean floors.

“The visuals they provided for the first three pieces really helped pull the show together,” said Zoe Anderson a first semester Physiology and Neurobiology student.

After a 10-minute intermission, the band continued on to part two “Wine-Dark Sea.” This section was a symphonic reflection of the escapades of Odysseus from Homer’s famous epic, “The Odyssey.” The pieces were almost a musical guide to some of the hero’s most dynamic encounters with the Gods and mystical forces of his realm.

Part one: “Hubris” recalls Odysseus with his boat full of riches. This movement opens with his triumphal march, and continues as he and his crew maraud through every port of call on their way home. The piece changed mood suddenly to violent percussion as Zeus strikes down the hero and his crew, leaving all the men and spoils to sink to the bottom of the ocean as the band plays quietly down a scale, imitating the musical cue of slowly sinking.

After a dramatic finale the performance was greeted with a standing ovation as each soloist was highlighted by Dr. Renshaw and finally took a bow himself. Afterwards, the young musicians were greeted and congratulated by friends and family in the audience, some even with bouquets of flowers. Just after the show, a winded French horn performance major, Grant Abelson said, “This was a way bigger crowd than usual. We worked really hard on this performance so it’s such a great reward to see the audience enjoying everything.”


Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu