ALEXANDRIA, Va. --
On Sunday, March 24 at 2 p.m., “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra will present the concert “The Darkness and the Light” at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria. Conducted by Col. Jason K. Fettig, the unique collection of works on the program embodies the visceral journey between the disparate feelings of opposite emotions, as well as a virtual journey through the environments of the dark and the light. The concert is free and no tickets are required. Free parking is available in the adjacent garage.
The performance will begin with Pulitzer-prize finalist Michael Gilbertson’s highly inventive concerto for woodwind quintet and orchestra, The Cosmos. The work was completed in 2016 as a commission to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gustav Holst’s The Planets. The composer offers the following about the piece:
The Cosmos explores features of the universe in our solar system and beyond. Each of the concerto’s five movements is inspired by a different element of the cosmos. The opening movement, Nebula, depicts the clouds of dust, gas, and light that combine to form stars. The second movement captures the circuitous orbit of a comet, growing louder and more brilliant as it draws near. The third and fourth movements are inspired by the bursts of radiation released by solar flares and the mysterious force of dark matter. The final movement depicts the release of atomic energy that powers stars throughout the universe.
One of the unique elements of the piece involves the members of the quintet moving throughout the hall and sometimes playing from the audience as well as with the orchestra. The immersive experience of the music creates new sounds and brings to life the chaos and beauty of the universe depicted in Gilbertson’s composition.
Members of the solo wind quintet include flutist Staff Sgt. Kara Santos, oboist Staff Sgt. Trevor Mowry, clarinetist Staff Sgt. Parker Gaims, bassoonist Staff Sgt. David Young, and French horn player Staff Sgt. Cecilia Buettgen.
Following The Cosmos, Gunnery Sgt. Russell Wilson will perform Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in D-flat, Opus 10, with the orchestra. Prokofiev’s first piano concerto is the shortest of the composer’s five piano concerti, and is composed in three sections that are connected to form a single-movement work. The piece demonstrates dramatic poles of emotion throughout, at times featuring jagged and intense rhythms like a percussion instrument, and then moving to moments of tenderness and lyricism.
“Most musicians have a favorite piece of music that shines above all the others; one that they never tire of hearing; one that gets them excited,” Wilson said. “For me, that piece is Prokoviev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. When I was in high school, I went to the public library and found a CD of the Prokofiev Piano Concerti. After just a few seconds of listening, my jaw dropped and I told myself that one day I would play it with an orchestra. My dream is about to come true. Now I've been practicing it much more intensely, but even with every repetition, the piece still excites me. My goal is to share that same excitement with the audience.”
The orchestra concert will conclude with Franz Schubert’s monumental Symphony No. 4 in C minor, D. 417, Tragic. Composed while Schubert was still a teenager, the work stands as one of the most beloved works in the genre and clearly foreshadows the brilliance that was yet to come from Schubert’s pen in the ensuing and all-too-short years of his life. The symphony captures the essence of the emotional darkness and light found in music through the beautiful, brooding, slow opening movement contrasted with a delightful, dance-like Trio, among other divergent themes.
The concert is free and no tickets are required. A jazz trio will offer pre-concert music in the lobby beginning at 1:15 p.m. Col. Fettig and the soloists will also be available in the lobby following the concert to talk with patrons.
Complete program and notes
Directions and parking