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REVIEW: SUWO Concert

REVIEW: SUWO Concert

WORDS BY CAMERON YOUNG

They say that lightening doesn’t strike the same place twice, but this electrifying performance shocked me more than once. 

The Sydney University Wind Orchestra (or the convenient SUWO) shone bright at its first of two annual performances at the Conservatorium of Music over the weekend. This semesters’ theme was ‘Lightening field’ with light paying an integral idea throughout each piece both as a thematic thread and due to its involvement in the offical Vivid program. This is the second time that SUWO partnered with Vivid, however, it is the first time they managed to engage with light both within the repertoire and as visual accompaniments. And to this end the blend between audio and visual highlighted the phenomenal work that SUWO had put into the concert. 

The most incredible sensory experience occurred before intermission with Alex Shapiro’s Lights Out. As the lights dimmed, the musician’s lit up with an array of lights covering everything from fingers, to mallets, to the conductor’s baton. The crowd gasped, experiencing a collective sense of wonderment at the spectacle ignited by the fusion of light and sound. 

Musically, SUWO has managed to piece together one of their most well structured and best played sets within at least the past four years that I’ve attended their concerts. Each piece contrasted well with the next and showcased the versatility and strengths of the orchestra. This was especially apparent in the slower pieces performed such as the Eric Whitacre’s hauntingly beautiful Lux Aurumque where their control and movement of motifs interwoven throughout each section delivered a complex etherial affair. There were moments of hesitation and small intonation issues at the start of the concert but once the orchestra got going they managed to gel quite nicely especially come the more rhythmically demanding pieces where a slip-up can quickly jolt orchestral sections out of sync. 

Special mention goes out to Solly Frank, Composition Major at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, for his outstanding work Dimmer which received its world premier. It featured the Hex Schmitt trigger light synthesiser, the fancy name for a box that when you furiously wiggle a torch it sounds like someone changing stations on an old-timey radio crossed with the jarring tones of an amplifier not plugged into an aux source…if that makes sense. The spooky timbre of the synth matched with dissonant squeaks, whirs, and an incessant pulse provided rich musical tapestry artistically reminiscent of the self-checkout machines and carabiner clangs that inspired the work. 

All in all a flashy performance without a shadow of a doubt. Credit to Dr. Steven Capaldo for his great musical direction and light humour throughout the performance allowing for a truely stunning performance. I hope that SUWO can build on this momentum to deliver another lit performance next semester.

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