One man orchestra plays a single instrument

Flute, strings, brass and even an entire orchestra were among the range of sounds that guest musician James Welch was able to coax out of a single organ when he performed at the Performing Arts Center on Tuesday.

The performance was a part of a series of concerts this week hosted by the School of Music and featured eight selections ranging from classical music from Bach to contemporary music of 20th century composers. The performance also made use of the electric organ which uses sampled sounds from a real pipe organ to make digital sounds.

Each piece that Welch played aimed to showcase different sound of the organ. At times it sounded like a full orchestra with strings, filling up the room with big, loud sounds, and at other times exposed individual instrument sounds such as flute and brass instruments.

“One of the nifty things you can do with electronics is acoustics,” said Welch. “So tonight, we’re in a cathedral.”

In “Sonata in D minor” by Bach, the sounds were light and fun and then became warm and dark with large resonant sounds. It showcased a variety of sounds ranging from tuba to trombone to chimes.

The piece titled “Improvisation on ‘Hymn to Joy'” explored the classic theme of “Ode to Joy.” It started with the recognizable theme and then transitioned to a darker sound that made the piece unique and interesting to the ear.

Welch played “Symphony No. 5,” made up of five movements, completely by memory which displayed powerful cathedral sounds and still managed to showcase technical skill with fast-moving notes in the opening. The next movements calmed down to a more peaceful sounds of exposed flute and strings. Welch also showed his skill on the organ by playing a pedal-only section.

For music students, the concert was something to watch despite having a single performer.

“By sitting so close, you can see the detail he puts into playing by using his feet on the pedals,” said freshman piano performance major Kara Reed.

“I can imagine listening to a full orchestra sitting here,” said freshman performance major Heather Woitena.

The concert was also a chance for Welch, who received a standing ovation, to highlight an instrument that not many get to see.

“Most organs are hidden, but I got a chance to play where people can see you,” he said. “By memorizing, you own the music and plus, I wanted to see if I could still do it.”

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