By Dale Gedcke
A free concert by the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra at 2 p.m. Saturday, December 6, will feature the “Emperor (Kaiser) Waltzes” by Johann Strauss Jr., the “Cinderella Suite No. 1” by Prokofiev, the “Radetzky March” by Johann Strauss Sr., and “A Christmas Festival” by Leroy Anderson. This is an exciting program that you will not want to miss.
In 1950, Leroy Anderson wrote “A Christmas Festival” to be performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra. Ever since, it has been a popular favorite of audiences and orchestras. Somehow, Anderson was able to weave all the famous Christmas carols into a progressive collage of color. The startling opening begins with “Deck the Halls,” and continues with the quieter carols in the middle of the suite. In the finalé, Anderson shows his compositional ingenuity with a raucous variation on “Jingle Bells” that is briefly interrupted by the climax of “O, Come All Ye Faithful,” before rushing to an exciting conclusion with a confluence of “Joy to the World” and the “Jingle Bells” variation.
Johann Strauss Sr. (1804-1849), is well-known for his role in popularizing ballroom dancing in Vienna, and spreading it to the rest of Europe during the early 1800s, with his touring orchestra. It was the beginning of the Viennese Waltz era. Although he is credited with more than 250 compositions, he is most famous for the “Radetzky March.” In 1848, he was commissioned to compose it for a commemoration of the victory by Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky at the Battle of Custoza that same year. Strauss incorporated a song melody that was popular with the soldiers. As a result, the soldiers clapped their hands and stamped their feet in approval, when the “Radetzky March” was first played. That established the tradition of the audience clapping their hands to the rhythm, whenever the piece is played. Feel free to maintain the tradition.
Johann Strauss Jr. (1825 – 1899) followed in his father’s musical footsteps, contrary to his father’s orders. Johann, the Elder, insisted on his son becoming a banker, to avoid the difficult life of a musician. But today, most of the popular Viennese waltzes that we know and love were composed by the son, not the father. The “Emperor (Kaiser) Waltzes” is a collection of four waltzes introduced by a march, and concluded with a coda. It was intended as a “toast of friendship” presented by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef on his visit to German Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1889. The familiar strains should get you in the mood for waltzing.
On November 21, 1945, the “Cinderella Ballet” by Sergei Prokofiev had its debut in the Bolshoi Theatre with choreography by Rostislav Zakharov. In 1946, Prokofiev extracted some of the more interesting music from that ballet into four suites. “Suite 1” has eight movements, tracing the Cinderella story from beginning to end: Introduction, Pas de châle, Quarrel, The Fairy Godmother and Winter Fairy, Mazurka, Cinderella Goes to the Ball, Cinderella’s Waltz, and Midnight. This music exhibits the unique style of Prokofiev. Throughout, he often uses chord progressions that are counter-intuitive. Yet the music is so expressive, it is easy to discern what is happening in the Cinderella story. And it certainly is not dull. The mazurka and the waltzes will make you want to dance. So bring your glass slippers.
To enjoy these compositions, join the concert on Saturday, December 6, at 2 p.m. in the Sanctuary of the First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge, on the corner of the Oak Ridge Turnpike and LaFayette Drive. Admission is free. But modest donations at the door to support the orchestra’s routine operating expenses will be appreciated.
The Oak Ridge Community Orchestra (ORCO) is a 501(c)3, nonprofit, volunteer organization performing under the baton of Conductor and Music Director Gabriel Lefkowitz. Anyone wishing to regularly participate in the orchestra is encouraged to contact the Personnel Manager Cyndi Jeffers at [email protected]. Usually, we can accommodate additional string players, and occasionally there are openings in the brass, woodwind, and percussion sections. The orchestra welcomes experienced musicians of all ages. The Oak Ridge Community Orchestra is a rewarding venue for instrumentalists who enjoy playing for an appreciative audience, with music ranging from Baroque through Classical to Contemporary. For more information about the ORCO, visit www.OakRidgeCommunityOrchestra.com.
Dale Gedcke is ORCO publicity manager.