USD Symphony Orchestra Proves Vermillion Is Red Hot with the Arts

USD Symphony Orchestra

USD Symphony Orchestra
Aalfs Auditorium, Slagle Hall
University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD
October 18, 2019

If you pay any attention to the arts in Siouxland, you should be paying attention to the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.  Tonight the USD Symphony Orchestra, composed largely of students and under the direction of Dr. Luis Víquez, delivered an impressive and free concert.  Talk about bang for your buck. 

And the concert started off with a bang: the “Mars” movement of Holst’s Planets.  This movement, fashioned after the Greek “Bringer of War,” felt like a military march. (And if you paid close attention, you might have noticed the germs of John Williams’s “Imperial March.”)  As dominant as the military theme was, the movement sometimes backed off in an ethereal way and gave the impression of a god who, when not marching to battle, might be wandering lonely in space. 

After “Mars” came “Venus: The Bringer of Peace,” and then Beethoven’s Romanze, a piece for violin and orchestra, featuring guest faculty soloist Dr. Ioana Galu.  Romanze, with its smaller ensemble, was intimate and moving, even more so, I think, because of how big and powerful “Mars” had been by comparison.  In Romanze I felt the fragility of human connection.  While Dr. Galu performed with emotion and fluidity with her violin, it was just as impactful to see her waiting out the orchestral passages with her instrument at her side.  She physically moved to the music in such a way that reminds you that whether it’s interplanetary or firmly-rooted in our planet Earth, music is, above all things, human. 

After intermission, all pretense was swept aside for Schumann’s Symphony No. 4 in D Minor.  No names of Greek gods here.  No allusions.  No planets and no escape.  As Dr. Víquez explained before the piece, Schumann was in a tough place and struggling through his own turbulent emotions when he wrote it.  There’s no looking out at the night sky now.  It’s all inside.  And though the inside isn’t always a pretty sight, the resulting music made a beautiful sound.  Of all the pieces tonight, I was most able to lose myself in the Schumann.  I may have lost my concentration a time or two, but I felt it.  And for that I’m thankful. 

You can be thankful, too, in case you missed it.  The University of South Dakota Department of Music was live on Facebook, and the video is still available.  It’s a little crooked to start out with, but you’re not watching to watch it.  Give it a listen.  And if you have the chance, make it up to Vermillion sometime. 

Brendan Todt is a stay-at-home dad who mows his neighbor’s lawn in exchange for piano lessons. He curates and hosts Take Whatever Beauty You Can Find, a podcast that takes a look at Siouxland art with Siouxland artists.