The Oklahoma Community Orchestra (OCO) performed their concert,“Goin’ West—Harmonic America” Nov. 12 in Oklahoma Christian University’s Hardeman Auditorium. The set included “Grand Canyon Suite,” “Concerto for Harmonica and Orchestra,” “Three American Sketches” and “Four Dance Episodes.”
The concert featured harmonica virtuoso Robert Bonfiglio as a featured artist in the show and conductor Douglas Newell, who led the orchestra for the first time. Liaison between OCO and Oklahoma Christian, Eric Colgrove said the orchestra only rehearsed once a week and some members traveled many miles to participate.
“The OCO is a full orchestra made up of string, wind and percussion musicians from around the state of Oklahoma,” Colgrove said. “They have been operating for 34 years and the current music director and conductor is Dr. Irv Wagner. For this concert though, the OCO had a guest conductor at the helm, Douglas Newell, the music director and conductor of the Enid Symphony Orchestra.”
Despite inevitable challenges that came with preparing for the concert, Colgrove said the orchestra was able to persevere nonetheless.
“The expectations on its performers’ musical prowess is high and is consistently met,” Colgrove said. “Two challenges to this particular concert were working with a soloist who not only performs an instrument not traditionally found in an orchestra setting, but the orchestra only got to rehearse once with Mr. Bonfiglio before the performance. This is not abnormal when bringing in a guest artist, but with the addition of a guest conductor, the rehearsal process can become challenging. But with Mr. Newell’s musicianship, experience and respect he shows any musicians he is working with, this OCO performance was one to remember.”
OCO only met with the harmonica soloist a day before the performance to practice. According to Oklahoma Christian viola player Brianna Weeks, the need for a harmonica player stemmed from the western style music OCO played at their concert.
“There’s typically a wide range of different music we play, but each concert is themed,” Weeks said. “This one is western kind of themed, hence like a harmonica soloist and the ‘Grand Canyon Suite,’ and there’s a couple of other western pieces, so it was interesting. I haven’t played this kind of music before, so it’s different. It’s kind of things you would hear ‘on the trail,’ so that’s been fun.”
Weeks said promoting the arts and music on campus is important, and this kind of event also helps promote Oklahoma Christian’s arts department through the visitors who come to campus for the concert.
“By practicing here, the OCO players kind of get a little feel for the atmosphere,” Weeks said. “In coming here every year, they kind of get to know some of the students who play with them, so it’s good to encourage people to join OCO and also encourage OCO to be involved with OC.”
Griffin Kern, bassist for OCO, said having the concert on campus makes it easier for students at Oklahoma Christian to become involved.
“I feel like OC tries to offer people outside of OC to come together to enjoy either different songs of different cultures or even different states, so I think that’s pretty cool,” Kern said. “I like that OC tries to bring in people outside of college students, like what we do for Cocoa and Carols in the commons. We’re bringing people of the community together.”