By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

Two upcoming concerts will showcase the talents of students in the F. Ludwig Diehn School of Music, marking a return to normalcy after the pandemic changed how they performed. On Nov. 12, the ODU Symphony will perform alongside the Virginia Symphony Orchestra (VSO), and on Nov. 14, the University Concert Choir chorale will perform "Songs of Freedom."

For the approximately 45 orchestra students and 55 students in the choir, the concerts are the first opportunities to perform together since spring 2020. Due to social distancing regulations, the winter 2020 concert had to rotate singers, and the Spring Concert capped the number of singers to 50. For the orchestra, the concert revives the opportunity to perform with the VSO. After entering a partnership with VSO, ODU performed two joint concerts with the orchestra, but the collaboration was postponed due to the pandemic, said Paul Kim, associate professor in the School of Music, and director of the orchestra.

"The pandemic has caused us to be very creative in the way we have approached music-making in the past year­­. We have learned to perform virtually, recorded and through streaming and it has allowed us to explore different facets of music-making and music study," Kim said. "However, it is certainly a welcome and relieving opportunity to be able to come together again and make music, because there is certainly no substitute for that."

Along with the opportunity to perform live, the orchestral students will be working with VSO conductor laureate JoAnn Falletta.

"The opportunity to work with somebody of her expertise is unmatched. Any time our students get a chance to sit side by side with professionals of the VSO's caliber, their learning is just accelerated," Kim said, adding that playing with a professional ensemble offers students a glimpse into what's expected of professionals and how they collaborate to achieve a collective sound.

The concert will include two pieces conducted by Falletta, including Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 8 and "Fanfare on Amazing Grace," by Professor Emeritus Adolphus Hailstork, which was performed at the inauguration of President Joe Biden in January. Kim will also conduct selections from "Carmen," and the show will feature Associate Professor Brian Nedvin.

The Choral Concert on Nov. 14 will feature the world premiere of Steven Coxe's "A Song of Moses," which was written for the Diehn Chorale for an intended spring 2020 debut. The 55 singers of the University Choir will be accompanied by nearly 30 instrumentalists to "create a concert to highlight the music of people struggling for freedom," said Nancy Klein, professor of choral music and director of the School of Music.

"Our concert is featuring songs of people in their quests for freedom, and not just those indigenous to our nation. Groups of people have been struggling for thousands of years for freedom, respect and dignity," Klein said. "Hopefully it will be an inspiration for our audience and for our singers themselves; the music is emotive and contemplative, and we'll go through the journey of emotion related to the struggle for freedom."

Selections include "Chester," from the American Revolution; the "Battle Cry of Freedom" from the American Civil War; "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho"; and a ballad from the Scottish Jacobite Rebellion, "Skye Boat Song." The concert will end with a performance of "When You Believe" from the 1998 movie "Prince of Egypt."

The Virginia Wind Symphony will join the ODU Choir in a rare performance of David Holsinger's "A Song of Moses," which features a powerful treatment of the text sung by the Diehn Chorale premiere. Klein said it is important for students to perform music from living composers because they are learning something fresh and new with no previous recordings to hear that could influence their style or approach.

Tickets for the VSO-ODU concert can be purchased at Student tickets are $10 and University faculty and staff can receive a 20% discount by using the code ODUSTAFF. The VSO-ODU concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. The choral concert will be at 4 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Kempsville Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach. Admission is free and the concert is open to the public.

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