The University Orchestra holds a concert every season at the Staller Center for the Arts and auditions are held two weeks prior to each semester. The performance highlights the myriad of talents of the undergraduate musicians. JENNA ZAZA/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University’s Department of Music held an orchestra concert featuring pianist Yumito Torigoe and conductor Susan Deaver in celebration of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ 150th birthday at the Staller Center for the Arts on Nov. 15.

As the musicians filed into the curved row seating with their polished wood and shiny brass instruments, they erupted into bright smiles and small spurts of laughter.

With a gentle strum of a violin, the ensemble began to play the first slew of songs titled “Ancient Airs and Dances No. 1,” composed by Ottorino Respighi. This set was conducted by teaching assistant Xue Ding. Each musician played with an air of raw, powerful emotion as the tempo changed from slow and leisurely to quick and lively. 

Even though during this song the orchestra was composed mainly of string instruments such as cello, violas and violins, the brass instruments were given a chance to shine. The soft sounds of the flutes added a lightness and enchantment element to the rest of the instrumentals. 


As the music approached a fortepiano, the musicians swayed with their instruments and Ding gestured her left hand, ending the piece swiftly to prepare the next song: “Adoration,” composed by Florence Prince and conducted by Deaver. The musicians switched out as the silent crowd waited with anticipation. 

After each piece finished with a loud, powerful sequence, the next one picked up softly, as if giving space for the audience to recover from the last song before continuing to the next. The orchestra members had an incredible talent of pulling the audience into the song within the first few seconds, engrossing them in delicate yet direct melodies.

When “Adoration” ended, there was audible excitement from the audience — claps and faint whistles — as the theatrical assistant opened the grand piano in the center of the stage. Yumito, Torigoe and Deaver walked onto the stage, silently bowed to the audience, and took their positions to begin Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major, Op. 58.”

During the course of the song, Yumito’s fingers exquisitely danced along the keys as he played intricate chord progressions both in the solo piano segments and in conjunction with the other instruments. There was clear intention with every change in tempo and rhythm, all serving a purpose to convey a story of elevated emotional expressions and bring an energetic, assertive end. 


Despite the lack of diversity in sound, being composed of mainly string instruments, there was no lack in the potency of emotion and intensity of passion within the orchestra. It was if the musicians were one with their instruments: an extension of the music. 

Beethoven’s piece ended with a dynamic, dominant sound and the audience instantly stood, clapping and cheering for the outstanding performance from Torigoe and the ensemble. 

For the final performance, all 75 graduate and undergraduate musicians were brought on stage to play “A London Symphony,” composed by Williams. Throughout the performances, the rhythm and tempo tangoed in crescendos and decrescendos, igniting feelings of sentimentality yet intense astonishment. 

Each set of instruments had its own spotlight to showcase its complex sounds, ranging from elegance to profound and heavy tunes. This was a show not to be missed, as the sheer talent of the musicians and earnest performances made it easy to get lost in the music. 

The University Orchestra holds a concert every season at the Staller Center for the Arts, and auditions are held two weeks prior to each semester. Be sure to attend next year’s concert and experience the breathtaking performances of the ensemble.


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