Chancellor’s Concert to be staged by chamber choir & symphony orchestra

The Washington University Symphony Orchestra and the Washington University Chamber Choir will present the 2005 Chancellor’s Concert at 3 p.m. May 1 in Graham Chapel.

The program, which will include works by Hector Berlioz, Felix Mendelssohn and Ottorino Respighi, will highlight two recently acquired instruments — a harp and grand piano — as well as Graham Chapel’s newly restored Roland Quest organ.

Dan Presgrave, instrumental music coordinator in the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences, conducts the 75-member symphony orchestra. John Stewart, director of vocal activities, conducts the 65-member Chamber Choir.

The program will open with Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture (1844), which contains music from his opera Benvenuto Cellini (1838), about the Italian goldsmith and sculptor. Renowned Berlioz scholar Hugh Macdonald, Ph.D., the Avis H. Blewett Professor of Music, noted that “of all Berlioz’s overtures, Roman Carnival is the one that best reveals his brilliant, in fact breathtaking, orchestral gifts.”

The program will continue with Mendelssohn’s Cantata Die Erste Walpurgisnacht, op. 60, with texts based on an early study of the Faust story by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Stewart selected the piece, which includes a frenetic witches’ dance, to coincide with the date of the concert: According to German legend, “Walpurgisnacht” is a nocturnal gathering of witches that takes place on the eve of May Day.

The program will conclude with Respighi’s The Pines of Rome (1923-24), which musically depicts four stands of pine trees located throughout that city. Notably, the piece employs the University’s three new instruments, as well as eight trumpets with full orchestra.

Its famous finale, “The Pines of the Appian Way,” dramatically reproduces the pounding footsteps of the Roman Army.

The new harp — a gift from alumna Audrey Senturia — was selected by Sue Taylor, Ph.D., instructor in applied music, at Lyon & Healy in Chicago, the nation’s most renowned maker of harps. The instrument, known as the “orchestral model,” was chosen for both its brilliant tone and its suitability for harp students.

The chapel’s organ made its debut in January. The 9-foot Steinway grand piano was recently acquired thanks to a gift from Priscilla McDonnell, former president of WUSTL’s Friends of Music.

The Chancellor’s Concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call 935-4841.