After 28 years, John Hallstrom takes a final bow
The Music at Colby series has been a well-known and well-attended event for many years. Members of the Waterville and Colby communities fill the seats of Lorimer Chapel, excited to hear what both amateur and professional musicians have to offer.
Something about this particular show, however, was different: in a bittersweet performance on Saturday night, department chair Jonathan Hallstrom picked up the baton for a final time, marking the end of his 28-year conducting career on the Hill.
The Colby Symphony Orchestra is one of the more diverse musical groups on campus, consisting of over two dozen students playing alongside Colby’s own applied music professors and professional, paid musicians. The ensemble is made up of brass, winds and string sections that work both collectively and individually.
The opening piece, Tchaikowsky’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, featured two student soloists. Charlotte Veazie ’12, a biology and music double major, and Jesse Goldman ’12, a music major and chemistry minor, performed the movements “Canzonetta: Andante” and “Allegro Moderato,” respectively.
Selected from a group of students who auditioned in the department’s annual student concerto competition, both executed their tasks to perfection. Each showed incredible skill and passion, taking full advantage of their time in the spotlight. Veazie moved in perfect concordance with her instrument, and Goldman took his place next to Hallstrom with confidence, leading the orchestra in a complicated thrill ride of harmonies and movement from winds to brass to strings. The audience rewarded the two with a standing ovation at the end of the piece.
After a brief intermission, audience members took their seats and welcomed back the ensemble. Starting off the second act was Arnold Bernhard Professor of Arts and Humanities Paul Machlin, a colleague and friend of Professor Hallstrom. He began by praising Hallstrom’s many “formidable” contributions to the Colby Symphony Orchestra as a program. “I have watched with increasing admiration as he has taken this wonderful ensemble to become a musical triumph,” he explained. “Among his many accomplishments, he has expanded the group’s repertoire, significantly increased the number of students in the ensemble...and it was he who initiated the student concerto competition.” He then presented Hallstrom with a framed poster from a recent concert signed by all members of the orchestra, both student and professional.
Hallstrom replied to the minute-long standing ovation he received from the packed chapel, saying, “These people are unbelievable and I feel so honored to have had a chance to make music with them.” From there, he took a moment to look around him and, once again, let the music speak for itself.
The ensemble began again with Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. The desire to please the conductor was visible on the face of every musician, and the four movements that followed were performed with precision and plenty of emotion. Ranging in tone, progression and energy, the individual components of the piece came together to create a singular success for both Hallstrom and those dedicated to making his last performance a memorable one.
Although his tenure as conductor has come to an end, Hallstrom will continue to teach classes on the Hill in music theory and composition and will keep his title of music department chair. Just because he has parted ways with one group of musicians, does not mean that he has left the game entirely. In an article written by The Morning Sentinel, Hallstrom explained, “My son is eight—Alex—and he’s studying the violin, so I’m working on another generation.”
While there are still a few events left on the 2011-12 Music at Colby calendar, the grand finale is already being labeled as a must-see. Lorimer Chapel will host the final performance of the spring season on April 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m., a joint symphony orchestra and chorale performance of Joseph Haydn’s The Creation conducted by Machlin and featuring the Colby-Kennebec Choral Society.