By Dale Gedcke
Pop singers do it, movie stars do it, even sophisticated string quartets do it. So, Oak Ridge Community Orchestra said: “Let’s do it. Let’s change our name.”
For the August 20 concert, the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra will be elevating its brand name to the Oak Ridge Philharmonia.
Under that new banner, it will be performing, “An American in Paris Suite” by George Gershwin (arranged by John Whitney), “Danse Macabre” by Camille Saint-Saëns, the “Overture on Russian Themes” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, and the first movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony No. 40.” More details are offered below. There is also a special surprise for the common man by a famous American composer. See if you can guess what all the fanfare is about from the clues provided.
George Gershwin (1898-1937) captured the sounds and atmosphere of Paris in the 1920s with “An American in Paris,” an almost jazz-like composition originally commissioned for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1928. It is more familiar as the accompaniment to Gene Kelly’s dancing in the 1951 movie of the same name. The version performed in this concert is the condensed arrangement by John Whitney. Near the beginning of the piece, one can hear the taxi horns, and feel the rush of activity in the streets of Paris. A lyrical section of American blues emerges to remind us of the visitor’s nostalgia for home. Abruptly, a fast jazz idiom jerks the listener back into the Paris bustle, and accelerates the music into a hectic, then grandiose ending, that mixes all of the themes. This is one of Gershwin’s most memorable masterpieces.
“Danse Macabre” was composed in 1874 by Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921). According to legend, “Death” appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death calls forth the dead from their graves to perform their dance for him while he plays his fiddle (represented by the solo violin). Under his command, the skeletons dance until the rooster crows at dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year. Listen to the sounds, and imagine the ghoulish scene of the dancing skeletons.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) originally composed the “Overture on Russian Themes, Op. 28” in 1866. The revised version premiered in 1880 in Moscow, with the composer conducting. He used three traditional Russian melodies, following the example of his mentor, Balakirev. The overture opens solemnly with the traditional hymn, “Slava” (Glory). The pace quickens to a rapid Russian dance motif, based on the folk tune, “At the Gates.” This is followed by the folk song, “Ivan is Wearing a Big Coat.” Rimsky-Korsakov improvises an intermingling of the three themes, until Slava returns, and rushes to a dramatic conclusion with 27 bars of Vivace.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote his “Symphony No. 40 in G minor, KV. 550,” in 1788, over a period of just a few weeks, bracketed by a similarly rapid completion of his 39th and 41st symphonies. He revised it to add clarinets for a 1791 concert. Because this symphony is often performed and recorded, most listeners will instantly recognize the themes in any of the four movements. But the first movement, performed in this concert, is probably the most enticing and memorable. Even though it is in a minor key, it manages to convey enthusiastic motion.
To enjoy these compositions, join the concert on Saturday, August 20, 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 Philharmonia (formerly ORCO) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, volunteer organization performing under the baton of Conductor and Music Director Marcelo Urias. Anyone wishing to regularly participate in the orchestra is encouraged to contact 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 Philharmonia is a rewarding venue for instrumentalists who enjoy playing for an appreciative audience, with music ranging from Baroque through Classical to Contemporary.
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