UPO to bring 'Musical Fantasies' into reality at Hill Auditorium

By Grace Prosniewski, Daily Arts Writer
Published September 23, 2013

The University Philharmonia Orchestra (UPO) is gearing up for its first performance of the fall semester and hoping to share a little magic.

University Philharmonia Orchestra

Wednesday at 8 p.m.
Hill Auditorium

Composed of around 80 members, the UPO is a full-sized symphony orchestra, with complete strings, winds, brass and percussion sections. The all-music-major orchestra performs three to four concerts a semester and is led by Conductor and University Associate Director of Orchestras Christopher James Lee.

Lee conducts the Contemporary Directions Ensemble in addition to leading the UPO and teaches Intermediate Instrumental Conducting for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Rehearsing three times a week, two hours at a time, students must perform in the UPO as a curricular requirement within the School of Music. The goal is to prepare students for their professional lives ahead.

“We tend to focus on building the skills of what it means to play in an orchestra because, for many of the exclusively performance majors, their primary employment will be through a regional orchestra,” Lee said.

The repertoire for a performance arises quite organically, with enthusiasm as a marker for importance.

“I try to find good music that the orchestra will enjoy playing and the audiences will enjoy hearing,” Lee said, “and finding a way to tie them in through a concept, an idea, a thought, a theme, a thread, that we can accomplish in the set amount of time we have.”

Inspired by music for the stage, the UPO’s “Musical Fantasies” will include Weber’s Overture to Oberon, Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances from Prince Igor and perhaps the most well-known piece, Tchaikovsky’s Suite from Swan Lake.

“It’s music that would be played in the pit, being brought on stage as the center focus,” Lee said.

Many of the refrains from the second act will be familiar to fans of the Academy Award-nominated film “Black Swan.” But, as Lee explained, both recognizable and obscure bits are equally intriguing and infectious.

“All the music has great tunes, and you’ll go away humming all of the great melodies,” Lee said. “It’s a good skill-building program for the orchestra as well.”

The UPO seeks not so much to produce sound, but rather to create an environment in which one can fully understand its reflective and transformative power.

“What we continuously strive for in our craft is not the addition of more sound, but of more beautiful sound,” Lee said. “It’s a way for people to enter into a world that’s sculpted around beauty. And hopefully we find, certainly, the fun, the lightness, the levity, the drama, but also a sense of magic.”

The performance will be headed by a pre-concert lecture given by the assistant conductors of the program at 7:15 p.m. in the lower lobby of Hill Auditorium. Curious audience members can hear about the program, learn about the plots of the different operas and sample a little of the music prior to the performance.

Lee’s confident that once students/audience members attend a UPO performance, they will fall under its spell. And with a program filled with tales of magic and fairies, it’s only fitting.

“I promise that you’ll fall in love with it,” Lee said. “And you’ll want to come back to the next one.”