Robert Cushman '24 performs at a concert in Davidson
Robert Cushman ‘24 performing in the concert. Photo courtesy Bill Giduz ‘74.

Ben Haden ’22 (He/Him)

For the past 18 months, student musicians at Davidson have largely missed out on live concerts. Instead, they gotten used to the inevitable lag and poor audio quality of Zoom lessons and saw months of hard work culminate in performances for an audience of cameras and microphones. But on September 19th, Davidson’s large instrumental ensembles reemerged with strong performances at the Town of Davidson’s Concert on the Green.

Kicking off their seasons that Sunday evening were the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra (DCSO) and the Jazz Ensemble, led by professors of music Dr. Tara Villa Keith and Dr. William Lawing respectively. An annual favorite, this year’s show was blessed with near-perfect weather and hundreds of excited concert goers, from toddlers playing on the lawn to grandparents quietly enjoying the scene from their camping chairs.

DCSO kicked off the show with an exciting piece entitled “Ravish and Mayhem,” composed by Stephanie Berg. Part of a goal of performing more works by living composers, Dr. Keith thought that the piece was a fitting way to express “a certain level of mayhem” we have all experienced since the beginning of the pandemic. The piece was especially gripping thanks to this year’s orchestra being the largest in the ensemble’s history. As a result, attendees enjoyed a full horn section whose elephant sounds (called for by the composer) ripped through the audience, supported by a four-person percussion section powerfully emphasizing the piece’s mixed meters. The orchestra concluded their performance with the last movement of Jean Sibelius’ Second Symphony, selected by Dr. Keith as a piece “that would really unify the orchestra and bring us together,” providing a “triumphant, overcoming kind of feel” which would launch the orchestra into its new season.

As the sun began to sink past the horizon, the Jazz Ensemble took to the stage to perform a great set of tunes by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and more. From the ensemble’s cool rendition of “Such Sweet Thunder” to lively 12th Street Rag and Pink Panther, audience members couldn’t help but tap along throughout. The performance also featured many written and improvisatory solos by students, including a particularly moving solo by trumpeter Anthony Lopez ’23 on “Basin St. Blues,” and several strong solos throughout the evening from Johannes Rumphorst ‘22 on Tenor Saxophone. Following the final notes of the concert, a feeling of warmth and healing hung in the air. Despite a long and challenging season of pandemic, audience members departed the concert with a sense of fullness, having renewed a cherished tradition of bringing the Davidson community together with music.

As usual, this concert offered just a small taste of what both ensembles will be offering this semester. The orchestra followed up its performance with a full concert in the Duke Family Performance Hall the following Friday, and they will be back for a short performance during family weekend, a fall concert on November 12th, and a performance of Mozart’s Requiem alongside the Davidson College Chorale on November 18th. Meanwhile the Jazz Ensemble will be giving a much-anticipated concert with renowned vocalist Carmen Bradford on October 23rd.

Benjamin Haden ‘22 (he/him) is a music major from Asheville, NC. He can be reached for comment at behaden@davidson.edu