Sunday evening, I attended a delightful concert put on by the Westerville Symphony up at Otterbein in Riley Auditorium at the Battelle Fine Arts Center. A new venue for me it allowed for a smaller, more intimate performance setting, perfect for when you’re going to be singing along! (Or in my case, “singing!”)
Under the direction of Dr. Jim Bates, the symphony started with the Christmas Concerto by Francesco Manfredini. I’d never even heard of him before, but I loved how the violins played off each other at the beginning of phrases in this Concerto Grosso, one of 12 he wrote. I want to delve further into this composer’s music – even after hearing this same piece again yesterday morning on Classical 101!
Next up was Leopold Mozart’s Sleigh Ride which added in all sorts of fun percussion instruments – skillfully played by the wind section because there were so many! This piece had the audience laughing, because of what I think was a flexatone – one of those funny sounding percussion instruments that has two balls attached by wires that clack against a metal or wooden tab that can be adjusted to raise and lower the pitch. (Dear percussionists: I could really use a tutorial on percussion terminology! And if you’re with the Westerville Symphony, please correct me on this instrument – thanks!)
Whatever it was, it was fun. 🙂
From there we moved onto Albinoni’s lovely Adagio in G Minor, in which Concertmaster Erin Gilliland played beautifully. The first half included more pieces such as the Wexford Carol, Christmas Day by Holst and Do you Hear What I Hear which featured Principal Trumpet Joseph Watkins. Wow! The first half was finished with a Suite of Carols arranged by Leroy Anderson.
During intermission we were all invited to enjoy some cookies in the lobby (loved the chocolate chips!) as well as visit the Gift Card Tree which collected $25 donations for the symphony and in return, each donor received at least $25 in gift cards to various places in the community. I ended up with a combo of iTunes and Bob Evans. The lady next to me received one to the Rusty Bucket.
While enjoying my cookies, I had the chance to talk to a lady who recently relocated to Columbus from Michigan to be near her grandkids – one of whom is a student at Otterbein. She said she attends concerts and musicals quite a bit since there are so many on campus. Can’t go wrong with that, right?
One of the volunteers talked about how she didn’t have this much access to this kind of music back home in Iowa. She knew of Cedar Rapids’ orchestra, but she said that this blew Des Moines away in terms of the arts.
Returning to my seat, I spoke to a German lady who said she’d had to decide between two Christmas concerts that afternoon! I love central Ohio for the arts! We also waxed nostalgic about the European cathedrals we’d both climbed while living over there. (couldn’t help myself!) She commented that when she was a girl, Strasbourg – where I studied in France, was still part of Germany. So many changes.
The orchestra started up again in the 2nd half of their performance still with Maestro Bates’ just gushing with genuine enthusiasm about the music as he told stories about the individual pieces. If the first half was great, then the second half was excellent!
A fantastic portrayal of Carol of the Bells started it off for us. From there was one of my favorite pieces of the entire concert, All is Calm, with the most beautiful sounding clarinet – played by Principal Hild Peerson. This is one of those pieces that you can play well in rehearsal, but for the performance everything came together just right – with the clarinet, the percussion and the horns…gorgeous!
Though not a Christmas song per se, the Skater’s Waltz conjured up wintery images and what it didn’t cover, Winter Wonderland did! I sang along with it, but fortunately no one heard me. (I played instruments for a reason!)
Mel Tormé’s version of the Christmas Song was next before we moved on to a world premier arrangement of Up On The Housetop, by Ohioan and Otterbein grad, Benjamin Hanby. Before sitting down, we had all been greeted by ushers in period costumes – all associated with the Hanby House in Westerville. So before hearing this arrangement, we were treated to some of the history of the song and also of the minister-turned-composer and teacher, Benjamin Hanby. Very interesting – it was written here in Ohio, but premiered during the Civil War in Richmond, Indiana. I really need to check out the Hanby House – I’ve never been and I love history. The arrangement, by another Ohioan, Ian Polster, was an absolute delight. I’d really like to hear it again, but it sounded fun to play – with all the string plucking and then it turned part of it into a waltz – truly, what fun!
No Auditions Required
And now to the sing-a-long…
Good thing Maestro Bates loves music because he invited us all to sing and sing we did! The sing-a-long included about 4-5 different songs for us to sing. Nothing was in my non-existent vocal range, but I sang along and attempted to harmonize anyway. I’m sure I sounded awful, but like everyone else in the audience – I didn’t care! I sang anyway.
The concert finished up with Leroy Anderson’s arrangement of Sleigh Ride. Probably my favorite version of this piece! We gave a warm applause at the end – many of us turning it into a standing O! We all looked at each other afterwards and said that same thing: That was FUN! What a great evening!
I couldn’t believe how much music was packed into this concert. What a great evening of wonderful music! Merry Christmas everyone!
Check out the next concert with the Westerville Symphony here – you’ll hear Gershwin and Copland’s music. Yes – you guessed it, Rhapsody in Blue and Appalachian Spring. There’s more to the concert so you’ll have to take a look!