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Wagner, Williams and Holst play big at first Valley concert

Updated: Sep 23, 2022

Christian Nova hosts the first of 13 concerts, with music composed by John Williams, Richard Wagner and Gustav Holst.

By Natalie Metcalf, Valley Life Editor

(L-R) Mitsuko Morikawa, Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu, Jamie Strowhiro perform three musical arrangements in the Musical Recital Hall of Los Angeles Valley College under the shared theme of "Music for Storytelling - Music and Characterization." Photo taken in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday, September 14, 2022. (Jeremy Ruiz | The Valley Star)

A saxophone, piano, bass and vibraphone played in recital hall M106, as Valley College students appreciatively listened to orchestration from John Williams, Richard Wagner and Gustav Holst.

The quartet kicked off the free Wednesday concert series with music from “Escapades” and “Catch Me if You Can” (2002) –– including “Closing In,” “Reflections” and “Joy Ride” –– all composed by John Williams. Before the Williams tribute, the musicians played “Mars” by Gustav Holst, which inspired many of Williams’s works. Nick Casillas blew the saxophone, Mitsuko Morikawa conducted while playing piano, Jamie Strowhiro played percussion on drums and vibraphone and Sezin Ahmet Turkmenoglu strummed the bass.

“It’s good to reunite with friends and play music again,” said Casillas, having performed with the other members of the quartet individually, but never all together. “It’s my idea of a good time.”

Each piece was originally written for orchestras, but the musicians transcribed the pieces to fit the quartet. Casillas compared the quartet to a jazz band, as each musician was feeding off each other during the performance.

Photo taken during a performance in the musical recital hall of Los Angeles Valley College in Los Angeles, Calif. on Wednesday, September 14, 2022. (Jeremy Ruiz |The Valley Star)

“I do a lot of listening because these pieces are not originally written for this instrument [piano],” said Morikawa after the performance. “I listen to a lot of orchestra, it helps me learn the chord progression.”

After the concert, a Q&A led by Music Professor Christian Nova took place between the audience members and performers. Nova organized the event in concert with Music 152 — a course he teaches. The free concerts are open to the public and are used for the professor’s class. Monarchs can join through a live stream as well as in person.

“In this first movement of “Escapades” it should sound like a chase or somebody is chasing somebody else,” said Nova during the Q&A portion of the recital.

This week's theme was music for storytelling and characterization. Williams's composition and Wagner’s operatic prelude expressed the art of storytelling.

“Sometimes there are lyrics available and sometimes not,” said Nova. “Music can tell stories with words or without words.”

Casillas is a University of California Los Angeles graduate, earning a bachelor's and master's degree in music.

“For me [John Williams] is the sound of my childhood and the sound of many people’s childhood.” said the saxophonist.

Morikawa is an active soloist, accompanist and chamber musician in the United States and Asia. In her career, the performer has recorded music for the New World Records label. She was featured in radio programs such as WCLV Cleveland and NHK-FM Japan.

The series continued on Sept. 21, with a concert of the same theme —music for storytelling. The third installment of the series, called “Music for Storytelling: Sung and Danced Drama,” will feature faculty members Frank Garvey and Patricia Hannifan.

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