Reviews ...

Stunning soloists shine in Melrose Symphony's ‘May Pops’ concert

... Yoichi does it again!

by Jackie Wattenberg

Spring had sprung, the financial crisis had been trickling into Melrose, and our music season was, regretfully, coming near the end with Saturday night’s Melrose Symphony Orchestra ‘May Pops’ concert. A full house in Memorial Hall — nothing new here; full houses are traditional since the arrival of conductor Yoichi Udagawa on the podium.

The opening pieces were good, fair, and very interesting — but then came the star attractions of the evening, two singers with vast experience whose voices immediately captured the audience. Baritone Thomas Jones and soprano Mara Bonde sang over mikes that seemed unnecessary for their full, beautiful voices. In songs from “Oklahoma,” “South Pacific,” “The Sound of Music,” and “Phantom of the Opera,” they performed with ease, warmth and charming projection of each song’s message. Ms. Bonde began, her gracefully flowing voice drawing enthusiastic applause. Her relaxed tones caressed the words and melodies, never a worry about excessive vibration, her range solid from firm low tones to some suddenly brilliant, operatically high climaxes.

Writer Jackie Wattenberg, whose pen name is Jacqueline Taylor.


Mr. Jones seems to have a baritone voice of “Don Giovanni”-like strength and resonance, romantically expressing love lyrics as well as serious dramatic moments with intensity, power and a richly expressive quality. Both attractive in appearance, they won standing ovations from an audience that had been impressed into hushed attention. And in every song we never worried about the orchestra’s support, the players in the sensitive hands of Udagawa.

Our popular conductor had many highlights of the evening, including a persuasive performance of a lively movement from Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony, the poignant “Pathetique.” He had his volunteer orchestra under fine control and expressive energy.

The program began with a work that has an inevitable effervescent charm, the “Donna Diana Overture” by Reznicek. Another lively work followed, John Williams’ “Liberty Fanfare,” that certainly was unrelieved fanfare, then a surprising “Lullaby” by Khachaturian that held a lovely melancholy melody.

Near the end of the concert, we were just about fearing that Yoichi would not delight his loyal listeners with something amusing in this light pops atmosphere when suddenly there it was — his silly hat routine! The flaps on the hat flopping up and down to the music’s beat! A few viewers nearby who had never seen this trick were chuckling like us old hands.

The concert’s finale was just that, the Finale from Respighi’s “Pines of Rome,” which was a grande finale for season’s end.

Upcoming Melrose musical events before summer include the Polymnia Choral Society’s Pops Concert, “Stars of Stage and Screen” on Saturday night, June 6 at Memorial Hall, and the Sunday Beethoven Society programs on May 17 and June 14 at the Melrose Unitarian Universalist Church.

Jackie Wattenberg is a Melrose resident and is the arts correspondent for the Free Press.

This article reprinted with permission from the Melrose Free Press, May 8, 2009


June 5, 2009


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