Grandioso! Kingwood Students Perform at the TMEA Region 33 Orchestra Concert


Friday night rehearsal with Jeffery Grogan- Courtesy of Lindsay Countryman

Moyu Yumoto, Creative Editor

From May to the end of September, students devote many hours in preparation for TMEA Region 33 Orchestra Audition. The audition process includes preparing 2 challenging etudes, which are short music pieces meant to exercise techniques and demonstrate the player’s skill. Selected students are placed in either Philharmonic or Symphony Orchestra according to a set of etudes prepared for the audition. With all the hard work and dedication from both students and the directors, Kingwood High School has consistently compromised almost the majority of the Region 33 Orchestra for many years. This year, 60 students have been selected for Region Orchestra and 5 students have been selected as an alternate. 

As some professional orchestras do, students only had a 3-hour rehearsal on Friday prior to the show and a full-day rehearsal on Saturday leading up to the performance. On Friday, November 11, the TMEA Region 33 Orchestra 2022-23 came together for the first time to rehearse in preparation for the anticipated concert the next day. 

This year, the High School Symphony Orchestra had the pleasure of having Jeffrey Grogan from Oklahoma City University as their guest conductor. Mr.Grogan is an internationally acknowledged conductor who has performed worldwide with youth orchestras. On the program was Die Fledermaus Overture by Johann Strauss, Lyric for Strings by George Walker, and Firebird Suite: Berceuses and Finale by Igor Stravinsky. From a piece by the Austrian “Waltz King” of the 19th century to a history-making African American composer of the late 20th century, students are able to perform a wide range of music.

High School Philharmonic had the honor of having Susan Day as their conductor. This name may be familiar to any orchestra students as Day has composed numerous pieces of music for middle and high school orchestras that many KHS students have played in the past. One of the philharmonic’s repertoire included one of her pieces “Parkland”. To be able to play a piece conducted by the composer is truly a valuable experience. 

I was able to partake in the Symphony Orchestra as a violinist, and the two days I was able to spend with Mr.Grogan were such a valuable experience; I grew deeper connections to each of the pieces as he explained to us the meaning and the culture behind them.

The concert opened with the loud downbeat of Die Fledermaus “The Bat”, an Austrian Operetta by Johann Strauss II (1825-1899). Notably played by the Vienna Philharmonic in its birthplace, it has a unique style of performance that students were able to experience. Full of Strauss’ famous Polkas and Waltz, making it for such catchy tunes that will never leave your head. With its change in character throughout the overture, it is an exciting way to start out the concert.

Contrasting the overture, the middle piece is a string-only piece of Lyric for Strings by George Walker (1944-2018). Walker became the first African American to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music, an award given to a distinguished musical composition in the United States. Prior to rehearsing, Mr.Grogan had explained to us the meaning of the piece. Lyric for Strings was written to honor Walker’s late grandmother’s life and the happy memory of his grandmother who is no longer with him.

Finishing off the concert was the Berceuse and Finale of the Firebird Suite by a Russian Composer Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). This is a ballet suite based on the Russian Folk Tale of the Firebird, and the Berceuse and the Finale are the climaxes of the suite. In the Berceuse, the firebird is casting a spell to make the evil sorcerer and his ogres fall to sleep, and the Finale is the celebration of the joy of victory of Prince Ivan who rescued the captured princesses. The Berceuse starts with a beautiful bassoon solo, and it maintains a somewhat uncanny tone for the rest of the piece; the Finale starts out with a majestic horn solo with a delightful harp feature, and it gets even more cheerful as the whole orchestra joins in.

To have such an honor to work with a world-class conductor to play professional pieces is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students. Congratulations to all the students for their hard work and performances!

If you missed out on this incredible performance, do not “Strauss” out! KHS Orchestra is presenting a winter concert on December 1 at 7 pm in the KHS Auditorium. You don’t wanna miss it!