Encores & Curtain Calls: 'If it sounds good, it is good'
Images courtesy of Brattleboro Music Center
The Windham Orchestra’s 28th Annual Concerto Competition, for young musicians, was held in early February. The two co-winners of the Windham Orchestra’s 28th Annual Concerto Competition for young musicians — violinist Alexander “Sasha” Yakub, 17, of Amherst, pictured, and cellist Nathaniel Steele, 14, of Deerfield. Steele will be featured in both the March 20 and March 22 concerts performing a movement from Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 and Yakub will take part March 22, performing the same composer’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.”
Images courtesy of Brattleboro Music Center
The Windham Orchestra’s 28th Annual Concerto Competition, for young musicians, was held in early February. The two co-winners of the Windham Orchestra’s 28th Annual Concerto Competition for young musicians — violinist Alexander “Sasha” Yakub, 17, of Amherst and cellist Nathaniel Steele, 14, of Deerfield, pictured. Steele will be featured in both the March 20 and March 22 concerts performing a movement from Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 and Yakub will take part March 22, performing the same composer’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.”
Image courtesy of Brattleboro Music Center
The Brattleboro Music Center will host “Composers in Our Midst,” featuring the works of seven New England composers, on Sunday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt.
“Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people.”
— Harry Emerson Phosdick
As the more perceptive and discerning of my readers have by now perhaps discovered, I am not particularly chauvinistic about the events that I choose to cover. And why should I be? I can find no real boundary to speak of between the “You Are Now Leaving Pioneer Valley” and “Welcome to Vermont” signs, or any true drop-off of quality or artistic integrity before or after the crossing of town, county or state lines or traversing the demarcations between folk, popular and classical domains, I’m relieved to report.
As Duke Ellington is oft-quoted as saying, “If it sounds good, it is good.”
Which brings me, not surprisingly, to the ever-resourceful cultural aquifers of Brattleboro, Vt., teeming, in the coming weeks with the exposure of new talent, both youthful and unsung, thanks to the enterprising maestro Hugh Keelan.
An English transplant, Keelan oversees the Windham Orchestra of the southern Vermont region, which recently undertook, along with works by Sibelius and others, the not-so-slight, almost hour-long fourth symphony of musical “maximalist” Anton Bruckner, about which the conductor enthusiastically wrote, “Time stands still in the music of Bruckner ... Bruckner creates a vision of life beyond the earthly and there is nothing like it in all of music.”
I reproduce this quote not so much to underscore Keelan’s ardor for Bruckner — a passion that I do not share (indeed, Keelan was right, time did stand still; it was one of the most protracted hours of my listening life!) — but rather to share a glimpse of the man’s wholehearted love for his calling. That said, and in spite of his unmistakable proficiency and professionalism (I was recently informed his youthful skills had him wielding the baton in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory for no less than Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto at the tender age of 16), Keelan’s outreach has taken a decidedly humbler turn for the more common listener and his “A Magic Garden” concert is the next nearest example.
The concert takes the unusual form of a lunchtime benefit for Senior Meals on the first day of spring, Thursday, March 20, noon, at the Latchis Theatre, Brattleboro, Vt. There will also be an evening performance on Saturday, March 22, at 7:30 p.m., in the Green Mountain Union High School Auditorium, Chester, Vt.
The concert features the premieres of works by two local composers, Jeff Stamler and Dan Seiden; inspiring performances by two brilliant young soloists, the co-winners of the orchestra’s 2014 Youth Concerto Competition; Bach’s baroque masterpiece Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, featuring violinist Peggy Spencer and oboist Jessica Moreau; and Ravel’s exquisite and playfully delightful “Mother Goose Suite.” These latter two works alone are more than worth the modest cost of a ticket.
Another of Keelan’s special features is his “Citizen Composer” segment, which will feature Brattleboro resident Jeff Stamler’s “Bossa Nova,” billed as “a lyrical fusion of samba and jazz, bossa nova.” It was originally created on guitar, but has morphed, through the miracle of Keelanization, into a work for a symphony orchestra.
There will also be a premiere performance of band teacher Dan Seiden’s “Blues for Orchestra.” Seiden has played for Lisa Loeb and appeared on NBC TV’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.” His works may be sampled at www.dansieden.com.
“I teach at the Putney Central School, grades K through 8, and we teach composition in the district, or at least I do at my school,” said Seiden. “(Keelan) contacted us last year and asked us for student composers and so last year there were some student composers who had their pieces read by the orchestra in the school’s concert. This year, we had a conversation about trying to have some music kids could understand easily, something close to their own experience with music and so they could see the orchestra didn’t only play older music. And Hugh graciously said, ‘Go ahead and write it.’ And I decided to write a 12-bar blues because I thought blues is sort of the mother tongue of our popular music. Hugh’s idea was to have even more participation by the community so there will be groups of school kids who are going to jam during the piece. I think the kids are going to deepen the experience of the piece very much. I am in Hugh’s debt for giving me the chance for my music to be heard by that orchestra. I really think he’s a tremendous gent to offer that and just for him to do what he does for the community. He’s definitely dedicated to having people in the community know what an orchestra is and having classical music be part of their lives and he’s open to lots of different ways of making that happen.”
The Windham Orchestra’s 28th annual Concerto Competition, for young musicians, was held in early February. The two co-winners are cellist Nathaniel Steele, 14, of Deerfield, and violinist Alexander “Sasha” Yakub, 17, of Amherst. Steele will be featured in both the Thursday, March 20, and Saturday March 22, concerts performing a movement from Saint-Saens’ Cello Concerto No. 1 and Yakub will take part on Saturday, March 22, performing the same composer’s “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso.”
Concert-goers are invited to bring their lunch or reserve a boxed lunch to be enjoyed during the concert. The full lunch menu can be viewed at www.bmcvt.org. The bargain cost of both lunch and concert: a mere $15! Or, $10 for seniors. And for the concert alone: $10, $8 for seniors. For tickets and lunch reservations, call Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or visit www.bmcvt.org. Lunches must be reserved by Wednesday, March 19, at noon.
During the March 22 concert, the orchestra will invite audience members to name their ticket price, choosing anywhere from $5 to $65 for admission (open seating). All proceeds help support the orchestra. Advance tickets are available by calling the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or online at bmcvt.org. windhamorchestra.org.
An All-Day ‘Composer-thon’
Brattleboro Music Center, 38 Walnut St., Brattleboro, Vt., will host “Composers in Our Midst” featuring the works of seven New England composers, on Sunday, March 16, at 7 p.m. at Centre Congregational Church, 193 Main St., Brattleboro, Vt. This day-long event also includes free master classes and a student recital from 1 to 4 p.m. at the music center. The evening performance will feature a wide variety of instrumental and vocal pieces by regional composers. Composers will briefly introduce their pieces and they will be available to converse informally after the concert in the parlor over refreshments. The concert will also feature 12 professional musicians.
Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors. Call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or visit www.bmcvt.org.
The event is the brainchild of Kristen Carmichael-Bowers, soprano and BMC teacher, who initiated what she hopes will become a yearly event in 2012.
An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He can be reached at email@example.com.