My wife and I were reminded of this on Friday Sept. 21st when we attended the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra’s opening concert of its 102nd season at the stunningly beautiful Monfort Concert Hall at the Union Colony Civic Center.
We were wowed by Debussy, dazzled by Armando Silva who painted while the orchestra played Respighi, and staggered by the changing sounds and themes of Ravel’s arrangement of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky.
It was all brought to life for us by the 60+ member Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra under the able leadership of conductor Glen Cortese. The house, nearly full, enjoyed superb musicians performing great music with excellence.
As the music washed over me I reflected on what makes symphonic music so wonderful.
Symphonic music is stunning in numbers. Every time I walk into a concert hall and see the dozens of instrumentalists on stage I am stunned. The Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra has approximately 60 performing any given time. That’s a lot of people to be managed through multipart musical scores by only one conductor.
Symphonic music is interesting in variety. It delights the ears of listeners with an array of sound, change of rhythm and broad range of orchestration, all made possible because of a variety of instruments at work. There are violins, violas, cellos, flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, trombones, tubas and others, and of course that whole section of curious percussion instruments. Now that’s variety.
Symphonic music is overwhelming in complexity. Orchestra music is not something that can be played by a couple of guitar players with capos, a keyboardist and a drummer. It’s composed of an extravagant combination of sounds, rhythms and melodies played by instruments performing elaborate and complex musical variations that change with each movement. Through the complexity, stories are told, pictures are painted and listeners are taken on a journey.
Symphonic music is overpowering in performance. There is nothing like the swelling sound and flurry of the finale of a great piece of music. When the violins play one melody and the cellos and violas compete with them for another and the woodwinds and brass make their gentle or booming contribution to the debate – the soul is touched, the spirit is lifted – and then enter the percussion with bangs, clashes and drum rolls placed precisely for maximum impact. Oh my goodness, you don’t know what it’s like until you experience it yourself. You are overpowered by the music – your chair vibrates while your soul is caressed.
But perhaps most important, symphonic music is civilizing to the human soul. Much of popular music today favors ugliness, crassness and obscenity. You’ve seen them with their ugly appearance, dirty clothes, visible under ware, genital grabbing, face-distorting and obscene gesturing while they scream X-rated lyrics to indiscernible tunes. Ugliness, vulgarity and depravity destroy a culture.
That is why our world today needs the great music of the ages performed by great artists. We need to be lifted, encouraged and challenged to significance and great music helps. I’m glad to say that I was there on Friday when all who gathered were bathed in beauty and lifted in spirit as the power, precision and grandeur of great music was performed by the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.