On Oct. 1, in Mercer’s Fickling Hall, the Mercer University Orchestra held their first concert of the year. The house was packed full. Ushers had to bring in extra seating to accommodate because the evening was so highly anticipated by the Macon community. Music lovers of all ages came to have their hearts charmed by harmonious beauty, and charmed they were.
The Orchestra began by capturing their audience with an all-too-familiar melody. The work was the first movement of Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”. As the graceful tune swept through the hall, audience members entered into a nostalgic trance as they recalled this well-known motif. After a brief pause, the “night music” continued with the second, third and fourth movements of the piece. When the fourth and final “Rondo” movement was finished, the audience burst into applause.
Ward Stare, the conductor of the ensemble, took the moment between the first and second piece to address his audience and inform them about the previous and upcoming pieces of music. Stare’s animated conducting was perhaps one of the most entertaining parts of the night. From the tiniest flicks of his baton to his energized footwork, Stare kept himself, the orchestra and his audience on their toes.
Stare began his career at Juilliard as a trombone player. Since then, he has appeared in numerous symphonies and orchestras as a guest conductor, performed in both Europe and the U.S., conducted in Carnegie Hall, and received many great honors as a result of his excellent work.
Of course, Stare would be nothing without an orchestra to conduct. The McDuffie Center for Strings was founded by Robert McDuffie as a part of Mercer’s Townsend School of Music. The Center is directed by Amy Schwartz Moretti and produces numerous performances each year. With students from all over the world, the group is diverse and distinct, working together to produce beautiful sounds with every note they play. Students of the McDuffie Center have come from as far as Hawaii, Greece, Sweden, South Korea, China, Brazil and Canada to be a part of this esteemed ensemble. The talent in all of the Center’s students is unmistakable. Each student spends countless hours each day in the practice rooms crafting their skills. It is no wonder the performance Tuesday night was so incredible.
After “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,” the Orchestra began to play Gade’s “Novellette No. 1 in F major,” Op. 53. Although this piece may not be as well-known as the first, the audience seemed to soak up every bit of it. After this work, the evening came to a close with a grand, five-movement piece by Edvard Greig. This final piece was entitled “Holberg Suite,” Op. 40. When Stare put his hands down to signal the end of the final movement, the audience responded with a roaring standing ovation. After a rather lengthy applause, the hall slowly emptied out and became silent, but the music continued within the hearts of those who attended such an enjoyable evening.