Sweet Briar and Southern Virginia orchestras join forces

Sweet Briar musicians and singers are readying for a series of upcoming performances, including two joint appearances with the orchestra and women’s choir from Southern Virginia University. The first is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, in SVU’s Chandler Hall. The second will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in Sweet Briar’s Memorial Chapel.

Both concerts will feature the Sweet Briar Chamber Orchestra conducted by Josh Harris, SBC’s choral group Octavo conducted by Marcia Thom Kaley, the Southern Virginia University Orchestra conducted by Mark Taylor and Bella Voca, and SVU’s women’s choir, conducted by La Rae Carter.

The program will include the overture to Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”; “Jupiter” from “The Planets,” a seven-movement orchestral suite by Gustav Holst; and “Nocturnes” by Claude Debussy.

The Sweet Briar program also will feature librarian Katie Glaeser on horn and assistant professor of music Anna Billias on piano. Glaeser will be the horn soloist on Kurt Atterberg’s Horn Concerto in A minor.

Harris says his players are especially excited to play “Jupiter” and to practice and perform with new musicians. He and Taylor hatched the concert idea when they met last fall.

“[We] began swapping stories about conducting small college orchestras,” Harris recalls. “Many of our students played in much larger orchestras in high school, and they expressed a desire to play pieces that required larger forces. So the idea to prepare a joint concert to give our students the chance to play these larger pieces was born.”

The program is challenging, Harris says, but his students — mostly non-music majors with various academic, athletic and club commitments — are rising to it.

“They have responded brilliantly,” he says.” Despite how busy they are, I hear them in the practice rooms working on their orchestra music every day.”

In addition to the orchestra concerts, Octavo also will combine with the College’s Chamber and Concert choirs for a performance at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 27, in Memorial Chapel. Thom Kaley will again direct the student singers through some of their favorites of the past four years. The program also will include 1940s-era songs such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “My Romance” and “Mr. Sandman.”

Guest artists will be assistant professor of music and percussionist Jeff Jones and Dan Laskin playing the trumpet. Students also will perform vocal and instrumental solos.

All concerts are free and open the public. For more information about the orchestral performances, please contact Harris at jkharris@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6115. Contact Thom Kaley at mthomkaley@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6221 for details on the choir concert.