Melrose Symphony, Concert No. 2, March 6, 1999

... snowflakes and symphony combine for a memorable evening

by Natalie Thomson

The concert was to start at 8:00 p.m. in Memorial Hall and, since it had been snowing for about five hours, I left home a little early for the close to three-block walk along Main Street.  The white-covered trees along the curbings made a picturesque pathway, highlighted by the Victorian-style streetlights sparkling downtown. The snowplows were trying to win their seasonal battle.

After inquiring about the availability of the one seat in the second row in the rear of the hall, I settled in with hardly any room for my body after stowing the wet jacket and hat.

The grandmother in front of me was biding her time, introducing her lovely junior high school partner to those elderly Melrosians who stopped by for a social moment.

The two-generational family of four on my right were in the same "night out" mood as the rest of the audience. The lady on my left was the out-of-state mother of "that" (pointing) trumpeter. She was staying at a motel on the Pike and did not play an instrument. She assured me that she loved these concerts and attended them all.

The lights dimmed a couple of times, everyone hustled to their seats and the last few folks streaked across the floor, shaking the snow from their hats.

The first violinist, Priscilla Ford Hunt, appeared. The audience applauded enthusiastically. The short tune-up increased the suspense and then the maestro appeared, walking with a small bounce to center-front, and bowed to the enthusiastic applause.

Yoichi Udagawa raised his baton and the orchestra struck up "The Star Spangled Banner," the audience rose and sang the national anthem together. It was mightily moving.

Then quiet. Silence.

Thus began the world premiere of "Melrose Overture" which was written by twenty-seven-year-old Scott Ethier. His superior talent was pleasantly exhibited in this musical painting of Melrose, Massachusetts. It was a continued delight of varied tunes and rhythms with a lovely pulsating, recurrent theme.

Next, midst more applause, Gina Beck, the soloist took her place between the orchestra and the audience. When the welcoming clappers stopped, she explained her first song and waited for a few silent seconds.

Then began a noteworthy performance of old American songs (arranged by Aaron Copland) and continued for close to an hour. There was a reverent spiritual then a child's song; a Zionistic plea; a couple of unfamiliar, to me, simple, pretty tunes. The ending was a cute "round" each verse punctuated with animal noise syllables. Her voice was ultra-pleasant, her diction perfect. She was a natural charmer and had to repeat her first offering as the encore that the audience demanded.

During the Intermission, while most of the audience went to the refreshment tables, I searched for and found my friends, the professional critics of the evening. I remained with them for Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 which was the second half of the program. Again and continuously, Mr. Udagawa extracted the highest talent of the orchestra members and presented it with pleasure to the enrapt audience. Nothing can compare to the thrill of live music, well done.

Bravo! Bravo!

The city was deserted as I walked home during a lull in the storm. The outstanding music rang softly in my head as the snowflakes covered my hat. My glasses provided a watery screen for the abandoned, silent late-night downtown. Another world? That's where I was, by myself, in a sort of psuedo paradise.

March 19,1999

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