BRATTLEBORO >> The Windham Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Hugh Keelan will open its 46th season this weekend with its Fall Fantastique" concert performance of Berlioz' hauntingly beautiful "Symphonie Fantastique," Halloweenie in nature, and Beethoven's complex piano sonata "Hammerklavier," orchestrated by Keelan sans piano.
Symphonie Fantastique tells the story of a lovelorn artist who becomes obsessed with the object of his affection, frantically searching for his love, Sometimes intense and volatile, sometimes gentle and elegant, five distinct sections carry the listener through what one might speculate is Hector Berlioz' own story. Music of fairy-tale-like quality, delicate and mysterious, begins the program, but as the hero's passion builds so does the music. Sad and lonely calls with no response, menacing, thunderous sounds and a death march tell the tale of heartbreaking anguish and ghastly nightmares of his own execution by guillotine. All the sections are busy with ominous sounds ranging from gloomy to sharply pointed and crisp.
The evening includes Beethoven's piano sonata opus 106 'for the Hammerklavier.' It is considered one of the most technically challenging piano compositions. Few have dared orchestrate it, but Keelan boldly has. Two of the movements will be performed, the Scherzo and final Introduction and Fugue. The piano is completely eliminated, all sounds now belong to orchestral soloists and massive orchestral texture.
This is a large-scale concert with many players that constitute the Windham Orchestra. Keelan, who has been the orchestra's director for five years said this is an extremely exciting concert, adding that there are a lot of bassoon players, something very desirable for the fantastique, and a number of harpists in this performance. He added, " It's irresistibly fun for the orchestra to play and for the audience to listen to. It is very compelling and never boring."
Members from as far away as Massachusetts and as close as local high school students and teachers commit their time and talents to bring high quality performances such as this one to the community. Keelan said, "The unusual thing about this group is that every time we perform I experience my love of music like it was the first time. They (the members of the orchestra) are alive and so committed; they knock me down how they are willing to volunteer such a large amount of time to make this happen, It is humbling and inspiring."
Managing director of Brattleboro Music Center said that caliber of the musicians under Keelan's direction has improved with each year, reducing the need to hire ringers, or outside musicians for their concerts.
Keelan invites anyone who would like to become a member of the orchestra, that everyone has something to contribute and become part of the whole, He said, "I'm very interested in breaking down the barrier. I have redefined what a community orchestra is – it exists for the community."
Keelan also said that the orchestra is a place where they have a great deal of love and support for one another, something sorely needed recently when orchestra member and music teacher David Tasgal, who had been a fixture there. died as the result of a bicycle accident. This will be the orchestra's first performance without him. They are dedicating Elgar's 'Nimrod' as a special tribute to his memory. Fittingly, it was originally composed by Elgar as a personal portrait of a dear friend.
First performance takes place at the Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Rd., Putney on Friday, Nov. 13 at 7:30 p.m., the second performance takes place at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St., Brattleboro on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 3 p.m. The orchestra invites the audience to name their ticket price, choosing from $5 to $50 for admission. To purchase tickets go online at bmcvt.org. or call the Brattleboro Music Center at 802-257-4523.
For more information about the Orchestra visit windhamorchestra.org.
"Fall Fantastique" has been selected by the Vermont Arts Council as a featured event for the Vermont Arts 2015. It is not to be missed. Come to be bewildered and awestruck!