BRATTLEBORO — For the Windham Orchestra's first concert of 2016 seven wind soloists will shine in the concert "STARS." All are locally admired and nationally accomplished women who will take their seat in front of the orchestra rather than in it to play pieces by Copeland, Schumann, Reinecke, Elgar and Mendelssohn.
This will be a chance to hear a rare performance of Schumann's Concert-Piece for Four Horns and Orchestra. Karen Horton, Chris Mortensen, Hilary Ledebuhr and Fleur Barnes-Rowell are the solo quartet of French Horns who will be taking on this difficult and challenging piece that most horn players only get to dream about performing.
Horton who is a music teacher at the Twin Valley Schools in Wilmington and Whitingham has played the French horn all of her life. She described Schumann's piece as an athletic kind of piece that even with years of experience playing the horn is challenging to practice for. She has been playing for the Windham Orchestra for 15 years. She said she was happy to find such a great group close by after her move here from Connecticut. "I value the Windham Orchestra because I had been playing in many community orchestras. The whole goal of Windham Orchestra is to appeal to a wide audience and to the community, Hugh (Keelan) does this in a special way. We strive for our best in a team effort.
Mortensen has played French horn since she was 10, now teaches horn at the Northampton Community Music Center and Berkshire Music School. She has performed Schumann's piece before with Barnes-Rowell as principle horn, a position she described as the highest and craziest, but even now in second position, she said, it requires a strong set of chops. Of working with this quartet she said, "We click well as an ensemble, we have the same thoughts in mind when approaching this piece. It is not easy to get four horn players together that can do this piece. It is tricky." As the second time she has played with the Windham Orchestra, she said "I always enjoy playing with the orchestra – Hugh is able to bring out the best out of community players of varying abilities, He make music with such joy, he lets all the little lights shine."
Barnes-Rowell began the horn at age 13 and taught middle school band for 15 plus years. She has played with orchestras and bands nationally and internationally, and many area orchestras. As she said, "I play a lot!" She has been with the Windham Orchestra for three years, practicing since October with the other horn players preparing for the concert. She said, "It's a pinnacle piece because it is so hard and there are not often opportunities to play it, It doesn't happen often that four horn players get together capable of performing this piece. I love playing for Hugh, a masterful conductor and human being. It's such an honor to play this piece with the Windham Orchestra and with this quartet – just thrilled."
Ledebuhr appears regularly throughout New England,is currently Third Horn with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and has shared the stage with many high-profile performers. This is the first time she has been invited as a guest to the Windham Orchestra although she has known Barnes-Rowell and Mortensen a long time who reached out to her to join them in the quartet. She found the members of the Windham Orchestra to be a great group of passionate people who play wonderful music. She said, " I'm pleased as punch to do this piece that is so complicated. It's an exciting thing for horn players in their lifetime to perform, so I'm very excited to be part of it."
Copland's Clarinet Concerto is to be performed by clarinetist and former area resident, Karen Bressett. A veterinarian by day, she has been principal clarinetist for 20 years with the Windham Orchestra, 10 years with the Pioneer Valley Symphony, occasionally with other area orchestras and at Friends of Music at Guilford's annual Labor Day Festival. She said the Windham Orchestra is a valuable and important tool for musicians and music education. For her, it provided an important respite from her veterinarian duties. Copland's Clairnet concerto was written for, and first performed by Benny Goodman. With moods moving from serene to virtuosic and charmingly jazzy, it will be an unforgettable experience having Bressett as a soloist. Bressett said, ""It is quite an honor to be asked to do this unique concert with Windham Orchestra. Usually the upper echelons of musicians perform with one soloist in a concert. To have all Windham Orchestra's community members with the number of soloists, shows that with Keelan at the helm, it has been made to be a community thing. It's an opportunity for amateurs like myself to play. Since Hugh has take over it is much more about community members, and the number of soloists in this concert confirms that idea."
Kimi Hasegawa who has played the flute since fourth grade and is a founding faculty member of the Brattleboro Music Center's Music School began playing with the Windham Orchestra straight out of college. Her solo performance Carl Reinecke's Ballode, is an eight minute romantic German piece with beautiful melodies and an operatic feeling. She said, "The Windham Orchestra offers a wonderful opportunity to play great music. I have seen the orchestra grow in size and develop over the years. Hugh has brought a new energy, a great feeling of community." She has seen the orchestra expand from 35 to 40 members to 60 to 65 members, allowing them to play music from different periods, like Romantic, that require more instruments. Some of the players have been with the orchestra a long time, and she sees the performances getting better. Today there are musicians ages 12 into the 80s. "I think it is unusual to have an orchestra for a town of this size. Hugh Keelan is very inspirational conductor and musician. He is a great teacher."
Bassoonist Diane Lipartito has played principal bassoon with the Windham Orchestra for the last 10 years. She will perform Edward Elgar's Bassoon Romance. She originally joined to replace a retiring bassoon player while with another orchestra, but enjoyed working with the Windham Orchestra so much, and was so pleased with the direction Keelan was taking it, she stayed.
She said, "Music from the Romance era is fun. I have played Elgar's Bassoon Romance before, it's great."
To complete the program, Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave, one of the great seascapes and fantasy narratives in music.
Performances are Friday, Jan. 15, 7:30 p.m. at Vermont Academy, 10 Long Walk, Saxtons River, and Sunday, Jan. 17, p.m. at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St. Brattleboro 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 Cemter at 802-257-4523.
For more information about the Orchestra visit windhamorchestra.org.