Serenade, Symphony and the Sea: Music by Ralph Vaughan Williams

(Photo courtesy UConn choir Facebook page)

(Photo courtesy UConn choir Facebook page)

Glorious music flooded the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts Friday night as the University of Connecticut music department featured the works of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The approximately 250-person ensemble featured performers from the UConn Symphony Orchestra, Concert Choir, Festival Chorus, E.O. Smith High School Chamber Choir and faculty soloists Constance Rock and Mark Womack.

Having involved so many ensembles of varying ages and varying schedules, music was introduced at the beginning of the semester and the ensembles have been meeting all semester to rehearse and perfect this huge undertaking.

“[The concert] required a lot more work and collaboration to be able to understand what each director wanted,” said Cassie Caron, a first-semester music education major. “Not only were we working as a choir working with each other’s separate parts, we were also working with an entire orchestra and then two soloists.”

“The process for Sea Symphony, while exhausting and frustrating at times, was completely worthwhile. We started the beast in the beginning of the semester and worked very hard on it,” said Emily Lattanzi, a fifth-semester Music Education major.

The concert opened with “Serenade to Music,” performed by UConn Choirs and a smaller ensemble of the UConn Symphony Orchestra.

“Serenade to Music” first premiered in 1938 with the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Vaughan Williams himself. The piece was originally arranged for 16 voices, and later re-arranged for a full choir and small orchestra. The lyrics of the piece feature lines from Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice.”

The piece was reminiscent of the style of “night music,” serving as a link between music and nature of the night. The piece began with a lyrical introduction by the strings, leading into a triumphant and rich entrance by the full choir. The lyrics served as the romantic statement to love and nature, while the music developed with contrasts of musical textures in harmony and vocal and instrumental timbres, depicting a progression of night into dawn.

In contrast, “A Sea Symphony,” the second and featured work of the night, opened with a powerful brass fanfare, followed by a strong, chant-like introduction of “Behold the Sea” from the over 100-person chorus.

“A Sea Symphony” is Vaughan Williams’s first and longest symphony. The four-movement work not only depicts a voyage across the sea, but presents a work symbolic of a journey through life, with the final movement being titled “The Explorers,” and sending listeners away with an optimistic feeling.

For the performers and audience members alike, this epic, 75-minute piece had the adrenaline rushing from the first note through to the final strokes of the strings at the end of the piece.

“It is absolutely remarkable how quickly and seemingly easily these four ensembles got the Sea Symphony together,” said Sydney Fogarty, a fourth-semester music education major. “As a musician, I know anything by Vaughan Williams isn’t the type of music you can look at once or twice and then execute it as well as they did. It was nice to blend everyone together, from high schoolers to adults, to make this piece happen.”

For performers, such as Lattanzi, performances collaborating different ensembles in the department provide a special value to the music students and community.

“The combined concerts are fabulous. They get choral students more engaged and familiar with the full orchestral experience and the same is true for orchestra students,” Lattanzi said. “I think these combined performances bring in a bigger more diverse audience which is really important for us to have.”


Lucille Littlefield is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at lucille.littlefield@uconn.edu.