Thursday March 21, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- Ludwig van Bailey. Wolfgang Amadeus Powers. Johann Sebastian Basescu.

Composers of bygone times and far away places meet composers of our time and our towns on equal footing in the Windham Orchestra’s "Pathways to Imagination & Performance" this Sunday at 3 p.m., at the Latchis Theater.

As part of his continuing efforts to define what it means to be a community orchestra, Maestro Hugh Keelan has programmed compositions by student composers of all ages from area schools, alongside master orchestral works by Shostakovich and Sibelius and a solo showcase for the teenage winner of the Concerto Competition.

The result, in addition to being great to listen to, is a program which examines what it means to conceive, create and perform a piece of music.

"Is the journey the same for Shostakovich and Sibelius as it is for, say, a student in Dummerston?" said Keelan.

For the student compositions, Keelan connected with area music teachers Andy Davis, Jim Kurty, Alli Lubin and Dan Seiden, who have been working with students from Dover, Green Street, Oak Grove, Putney Central and The Grammar School. Keelan threw the doors wide open and said any compositions submitted would be played. In all, some three dozen young composers supplied so many compositions it became what Keelan called "a wonderful problem."

To handle such a great volume of short compositions, some of which are just a few seconds long (Keelan calls them "gorgeous fragments"), Keelan stitched them together into a couple of musical tapestries.


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For audiences, the compositions are more than just a chance to say "Oh, how cute." They are moments of the human spark, captured for all time. Just like Beethoven’s Fifth.

"Here, we address really what it’s like being a young composer," explained Keelan. "They’re saying ‘Here’s what’s going on in my heart.’ The intention behind all of these pieces is from an intense desire of giving a piece of yourself to the world."

Participating students include Kindyl Alfonso, Colette Anton, Owen Bailey, Sophie Basescu, Andrew Brooks, Elijah Burdo, Wesley Capitani, Seviah Cepeda, Clara Chambers, Gracie Childs, Pierce Clarke, Kylie Cleanthes, Julia Fillion, Andrew Foster, Miranda Fuller, Cassidy Gallivan, Henry Glajzer, Amelia Harrison, Aicher Hearon, Sam Kendrick, Sienna Lewis, Jamie Lumley, Jillian Mahon, Reed McKay, Jon Michael, Kaitlyn North, Abraham Moore Odell, Michael Olson, Emma Paige, Grace Powers, Gus Powers, David Sherman, Alex Shriver, Nate Snell, Challie Vicary and Garrett Weil.

For the orchestra, it’s a chance to connect with a new set of musicians in the community and to demonstrate in a new way, the value of an orchestra in a community.

"The players of the orchestra kind of perked right up. There were very appreciative ‘ooohs and aaahs’ from the players," said Keelan.

From young composers to young performers, Sunday’s concert also features the winner of the 27th annual Concerto Competition, 16-year-old violinist Anna Perkins.

Perkins will perform the first movement of the "Symphonie Espangolo" by Edouard Lalo, accompanied by the orchestra.

"I picture in this piece the soloist being this kind of sorceress presence who guides and beguiles the orchestra and the audience through a rather wondrous landscape," said Keelan.

Perkins began violin study at age 6, and for the last nine years she has been a student of Romina Kostare in Amherst, Mass. She has played in her schools’ orchestras since third grade and is now co-concertmaster of Amherst Regional High School’s top orchestra. She also plays with the Springfield Youth Orchestra. She has participated in the ASTA String Camp at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Strings@Smith at Smith College, all-district and all-state orchestras and at the State Academy of Music "A. Glazunov" in Petrozavodsk, Russia while on a school exchange. Last summer, she attended the Brevard Music Center and played in the Transylvania Symphony Orchestra. When she’s not practicing, she enjoys reading, playing softball and watching "Downton Abbey."

Since its inception, the Concerto Competition has been sponsored by violinmaker Douglas Cox.

Rounding out the concert are two masterworks which have in common a regard for Soviet Russia, albeit from two different perspectives.

Jean Sibelius’ "Finlandia," is an unabashedly defiant salute to Finnish patriotism in the face of oppression and conquest, a "one-movement nationalistic shout-out" in Keelan’s words.

Though in the same key -- E-flat -- Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1945 Symphony No. 9 is a pro-Soviet celebration of the Russian victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Outwardly celebratory, it nonetheless seems also to chafe at the suppression of the human spirit.

To warm up, a special abbreviated children’s performance of this concert will be performed on Thursday for Windham County school students.

Tickets to Sunday’s 3 p.m. performance at the Latchis are $15, $10 for students, seniors, AARP members. For tickets, call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523 or purchase them at www.brattleborotix.com. For information visit www.bmcvt.org or www.windhamorchestra.org.