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March 23 Concert at Symphony Hall

Students Relish Chance to Perform at Symphony Hall

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Performing at Symphony Hall will be an honor and a pleasure for BC Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Annie Jihyo Park ’13 (watching conductor John Finney). Photo by Lee Pellegrini

The University Chorale, the Boston College Symphony Orchestra, BC bOp! and the University Wind Ensemble will take the stage on March 23 in Boston’s Symphony Hall for a Sesquicentennial concert open to Boston College students, parents, alumni, friends, faculty and staff.

The Chorale and the Symphony Orchestra will perform during the first half — which includes a guest appearance by actor Chris O’Donnell ’92, who will narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” — with BC bOp! and the University Wind Ensemble rounding out the event, which begins at 2 p.m.

In addition to “A Lincoln Portrait,” other selections the Chorale and Symphony Orchestra will perform include the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (by the Symphony only), Camille Saint-Saen’s “Tollite Hostias” — which Finney describes as a “signature piece” for the combined ensembles — and, as a climax, the “Hallelujah Chorus,” with which the audience will be invited to participate.

The University Wind Ensemble will present an all-Leonard Bernstein program, including the beloved “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’” and “Slava!” The set by BC bOp! will feature Hank Levy’s “Decoupage,” Don Menza’s “Groovin’ Hard” as well as vocal renditions of “Moonglow,” “Perdido” and “That Cat Is High.”

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University Chorale President Erin Conlin ’13 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

For the four University performance groups, the March 23 concert is a welcome opportunity to present their skills in a world-class venue, and to be part of an important milestone in Boston College history.

“Performing at Symphony Hall is likely a once-in-a-lifetime event for these student musicians,” said BC Bands Director Sebastian Bonaiuto, who directs BC bOp! and the Wind Ensemble. “And to do this during such an important year for Boston College makes it all the more special. The students are very excited about performing in such a prestigious venue in this anniversary year.”

“It is truly an honor to participate in this special celebration,” said John Finney, who directs the University Chorale and the Symphony Orchestra. “We do our absolute best for every concert, of course, but this one will be at Symphony Hall — one of perhaps the five finest concert halls in the world — and in front of audience filled with those who know and love us. It will be a momentous event for the Chorale and Orchestra.”

In fact, as Finney notes, there is more than a little serendipity where the Sesquicentennial concert is involved: This academic year marks the 100th anniversary of the Boston College Glee Club, the forerunner of the Chorale, which is observing its own 50th anniversary. Furthermore, Finney says, it was 20 years ago when the Chorale last gave a formal performance at Symphony Hall (the ensemble was part of an “open house” event at the venue in 1997) to commemorate Finney’s predecessor, C. Alexander Peloquin, upon his retirement after 38 years at the University. Peloquin, who died in 1997, directed and oversaw the Glee Club’s transition into the Chorale, which made its inaugural appearance during BC’s centennial celebration in March of 1963.

The Sesquicentennial concert will be perhaps the biggest highlight in an already eventful four years of Chorale activities for Chorale President Erin Conlin ’13. During her time, the Chorale, in addition to campus and local performances, has gone to Germany, Ireland and Prague for its annual spring break tour, and this year will be visiting Rome.

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Chris O'Donnell '92 will narrate Aaron Copland’s “A Lincoln Portrait” (Photo from IMDb)

“We’ve appeared in some beautiful places, but not in a large, professional music hall. We’re so excited at the way our sound is coming together for this concert,” said Conlin, a Minneapolis native whose involvement in music goes back to elementary school and has included taking part in a local choir and musical theater, and singing with her dad at relatives’ weddings.

“I always looked on music as a ‘hobby,’ as something I do for fun, rather than an academic pursuit,” said Conlin, who majors in communication with a Faith, Peace and Justice minor. “The Chorale was a perfect way for me to keep enjoying music.”

Annie Jihyo Park, a violin-playing senior from Bethesda, Md., majoring in communication and music, is the Symphony Orchestra’s 2012-13 concertmaster. Being selected for the position — which traditionally entails being leader of the orchestra, subordinate only to the conductor — is among many satisfying experiences she has had at BC. Park has played with the Chamber Music Society, Liturgy Arts Group, BC Baroque as well as the orchestra, worked as a student coach for chamber groups and as a music theory tutor at the Connors Learning Center, and — through an Advanced Study Grant — participated in the International Music Academy in Italy last summer.

“I started violin at age 12 and took it pretty seriously throughout middle school and high school: competitions, auditions, festivals and so on,” she said. “But at BC I started enjoying the violin in a different sense, without the competitive nature that dominated my earlier days.

“As a senior in the sesquicentennial class, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to play in this concert — to me, Symphony Hall has always been a performance venue for the best of the best. Moreover, I am very glad that BC is celebrating its sesquicentennial year with a musical event featuring BC musicians. It is the first time for all four groups to come together for one concert, and I am thrilled about the collaborative effort.”

For information on the March 23 concert and other Sesquicentennial events, news and features, see www.bc.edu/150.