Guest orchestra joins Baylor for anniversary

By Connor Yearsley


Tonight’s Baylor Symphony Orchestra concert will be unconventional, to say the least.

Members of the Seinan Gakuin University Chamber Orchestra, from Fukuoka, Japan, will play alongside the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.

The concert commemorates the 40th anniversary of the sister relationship between the two schools.

Seinan Gakuin was founded in 1916 by a Baptist missionary, and Seinan Gakuin University was chartered in 1949.

Currently, the university has a total student population of about 8,000. Its primary emphasis is on the humanities and social sciences and, like Baylor, it is committed to Christian values and fellowship.

Stephen Heyde, director of orchestral activities and conductor of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, said he thinks relationships and collaborations like this one are vital.

“It’s a global world. It’s a global community,” Heyde said.

Heyde said the school has similar interests, hopes and aspirations, and he can’t remember the Baylor Symphony Orchestra ever having had a concert like this one.

“I can’t really say we’ve ever had any guests join us,” Heyde said. “I think this is the first time.”

The eclectic program will begin with the 34-member Seinan Gakuin University Chamber Orchestra performing two Japanese pieces.

The concert’s program notes from the concert describe Yuzo Toyama’s “Rhapsody for Orchestra” as a “folk-music travelogue of Japan.”

“Four Folk Songs of Hakata,” arranged by Hiroshi Ishimaru, is a collection of four songs, or “bushi,” associated with the region in which Seinan Gakuin University is located.

“The folk songs themselves are very lyrical, but there are underpinnings of rhythm,” Heyde said.

According to Heyde, the Japanese pieces have an East-meets-West sound to them.

“It’s an amalgamation of the two styles,” he said.

The orchestra will also use some traditional Japanese percussion instruments for the concert, including the shime-daiko, which is a smaller variety of taiko (Japanese for “drum”), and the chanchiki, which is an ashtray-shaped piece of metal that’s struck with a mallet.

The Baylor Symphony Orchestra will then perform Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” which the program notes describe as a “sparkling overture.”

Graduate conductor Dami Baek will conduct.

Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” (“The Sea” in French) will finish the first half. Rachel Carson’s describes that the piece: “Like the sea itself, the surface of Debussy’s music hints at the brooding mystery of its depths and ultimately the profound enigma of life itself.”

The program notes also explain Debussy’s fascination with the sea and, appropriately for the evening, with the early 19th century Japanese artists, Hokusai (whose art appeared on the first edition of the full score of “La Mer”) and Hiroshige.

After intermission, Kae Hosoda-Ayer, assistant professor of piano at Baylor, will perform Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” The orchestras will play together for the concerto.

The program notes describe the piano concerto as “probably [Rachmaninoff’s] most popular, and certainly one of the most-loved of all concert works.”

Heyde said getting everybody on the same page logistically will be a challenge since the two orchestras only had yesterday to rehearse together.

“Finding a place for everyone to sit will be a challenge,” he said.

Heyde can’t wait for the program.

“I’m excited to see how it’s all going to work out,” Heyde said. “I’m excited to get to make music with people from the other side of the world. I’m excited for the musicians to make new friends. I’m excited to work with Dr. Ayer,” he said.

Heyde said the orchestra is well prepared.

“‘La Mer’ is a spectacular piece and the orchestra is playing it exceptionally well,” he said.

Heyde and Hosoda-Ayer will travel to Fukuoka in December to perform the concerto and continue the anniversary celebration at Seinan Gakuin University.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. today in Jones Concert Hall in the Glennis McCrary Music Building.

It is free and open to the public.