Monday, April 20, 2009

South Jersey's cultural exports

To the west: Symphony in C with Astral Artists at the Kimmel Center, reviewed for the Courier-Post, April 20, 2009.

I had to chuckle when I was asked if I'd "made it through" the program's opening piece, a contemporary work by Sebastian Currier. It might have provoked some squirming, but I found it very colorful, witty and exciting, with soloist and orchestra pulling it off ably. Using the minuet form as a point of departure, Currier plays with cadences and expectations, making the phrases fall in unanticipated spots. Oddly, I heard some of that same playfulness in the delayed final cadence at the end of Strauss' "Four Last Songs."

To the south and west: This past weekend, I accompanied the Greater South Jersey Chorus to Washington, DC for a performance at the National Gallery of Art. I'm currently at work on a preview of the Chorus' performances of Carmina Burana on May 2 and 17, and the invitation to perform as part of a weekend choral festival came at just the right time to include the honor in my article.

Their program of 18th and 19th century American hymns and folk tunes was a very thoughtful, well-balanced assemblage, and the resonance of the National Gallery's Garden Court gave just the right boost to the chorus' sound, particularly the sopranos and basses. The 45-minute set could have used one or two more up-tempo numbers, but the concert's peak -- a stunning rendition of Aaron Copland's setting of "At the River" -- and its conclusion -- Rishel's own arrangement of the spiritual "All Night, All Day" -- were all the more effective for their deliberate pacing and slow build in dynamics and intensity. This indicates good things to come in May's Carmina performances.

Roughly two-thirds of the 90-member chorus made the trek, and I was very privileged to speak with director Dean Rishel, Chorus president Bill Kinsey, tour manager Bonnie Meilner and several other members of the chorus during the bus trip.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Over the river

Symphony in C and Astral Artists at the Kimmel Center, The Courier-Post, April 12, 2009.

I'll be attending this one, too, and my review should run on Saturday.

I was surprised to learn that Astral was not promoting the performance of Sebastian Currier's "Broken Minuets" as the work's U.S. premiere. Anything that forces me to explain microtones to a general audience is noteworthy indeed.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Part of this balanced breakfast

The Philadelphia Orchestra's "Green Eggs and Ham" Family Concert, reviewed for the Courier-Post, April 7, 2009.

I'd never before reviewed a concert geared toward children, but the Courier-Post has recently shaded toward family-centered coverage in its features, so I might be doing more of these reviews. In addition to a very fine performance by the Orchestra and many positive and enthusiastic comments I heard from children in attendance, there's one more excellent sign for the future of these family concerts: the ripple of excitement that went through the audience when Michael Boudewyns announced there would be a concert next season of Harry Potter music.

I've only seen two movies in the HP franchise and, regrettably, have read none of the books, but I know the power they have over readers of all ages, and I'll never forget the gasps of joy I heard in the fall of 2006 when the opening celesta notes of "Hedwig's Theme" were played at a Halloween concert. I was on stage, playing third trombone with the Syracuse University Symphony Orchestra, and the hall was filled with costumed children -- without question, the most rapt and attentive audience I've ever performed for.