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Orchestra evokes emotion with old favorites

Hayley Hulin
Staff Writer

The Pomona College Orchestra performed Saturday night at the Mabel Shaw Bridges Hall of Music at the Pomona College.

The orchestra began by playing the prelude to “Hänsel und Gretel” by Engelbert Humperdinck and was followed by “Eight Poems of Emily Dickinson” by Aaron Copland, the prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin” and the prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde” by Richard Wagner.

“I thought it was very professionally done,” said Susan van Harmelen, mother of percussionist Jon van Harmelen. “The music was right on target.”

Eric Lindholm conducted the 67-piece orchestra, which was made up of players from all five of the undergraduate Claremont colleges, Claremont Graduate University and the Claremont School of Theology and was joined by Gwendolyn Lytle, an opera soprano.

Sounds bounced off the ornate dark wood details of the music hall and improved the acoustics.

A large organ sat above the stage, untouched. The grand hall set the tone for the large orchestra.

“It helps to take you back to when it was written,” said Claremont resident Alan Clark. “It brings the ambiance.”

The prelude to “Hänsel und Gretel” opened the concert with calm welcoming.

Lindholm conducted the orchestra with gusto as he made large arm gestures and the musicians followed his lead. The filled music hall intently listened from the first note.

“Eight Poems by Emily Dickinson” evoked an emotion that Copland, the composer, interpreted from Dickinson and intended for the audience.

“My favorites were part of the poems of Emily Dickinson,” Clark said.

The first song, “Nature, the gentlest mother,” began with a representation of dawn.

“There came a wind like a bugle” provoked an anxious and agitated feeling.

“The world feels dusty” and “Heart, we will forget him” were both simpler and used the orchestra more sparingly, which created a melancholy sound.

“Dear March, come in!” and “Going to Heaven!” sounded more alive and joyful.

“Sleep is supposed to be” and “The Chariot” both suggested peace through softer melodies.

Lytle accompanied the orchestra and sang the lyrics to each poem as well as the prelude and Liebestod from “Tristan und Isolde.”

“She has a powerful voice,” Clark said.

“To still be heard, even though the orchestra wasn’t in a pit, was amazing,” he said.

Following the poems, Lytle exited for the prelude to Act III of “Lohengrin” which was the favorite of van Harmelen as well as Clark’s wife, Meagan Clark.

Compared to previous songs, the orchestra used more percussion for “Lohengrin.” Two musicians at the back emphasized key points of the melodies with symbols and a tambourine, and the violinists quickly jabbed at their strings.

For the finale, Lytle returned to the balcony by the organ and sang “Tristan und Isolde” in German.

The last song filled the music hall with booming sounds. As the music escalated higher and higher, louder and louder, the musicians threw their bodies into the song.

The finale left the audience, as the concluding lyrics in “Tristan und Isolde” suggest, in “höchste Lust,” or “utmost rapture.”

Hayley Hulin can be reached at

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