Reviews ...

Season's final Melrose Symphony concert

... honors Millie Rich, outgoing president of the MSO

by Jackie Wattenberg

Article reprinted by permission of Melrose Free Press, May 6, 2010.

Saturday evening’s Spring Pops Concert in Memorial Hall was not only the final concert of our Symphony Orchestra season — it was the final appearance of President Millie Rich on stage to open the concert with a few friendly words about appreciation and support of the symphony.

Now with the orchestra in the brilliant hands of Yoichi Udagawa, Millie Rich apparently feels she can end 30 years of protecting, pampering, guiding and devotion to our city’s biggest cultural organization.

It was a pops program, but it seemed to hold more classical pieces than before, a welcome shift. With only four concerts each year, and one the seasonal Christmas Pops, why not allow our talented conductor to bring us a third program of great music? Such as the surprise on Saturday to hear the final movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, fresher than the oft-cited first movement. The bright, triumphant tone he brought to the score seemed perhaps a reflection of the celebratory mood of the concert on the values of Ms. Rich.

There was a special guest artist as narrator in a moving work, Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait” — Channel 7 News anchor Kim Khazei. The orchestra was strong and clear in defining the serious tone of the work, and Ms. Khazei read the words with total clarity and lack of affectation. Since this work has traditionally been performed with a man, especially a man with an impressive voice, I rather missed that quality when she stated, “And President Lincoln said ….” However, the audience rose for a standing ovation.

A surprise for us and also for Millie Rich — in mid-program. Conductor Udagawa turned to tell us that he had asked his wife, composer Alice Pertchick, to “compose a piece for Millie — called ‘Serenade for Millie.’” This was a piece of gentle loveliness, softly flowing melody and peaceable harmonies. Ms. Rich was completely surprised at this addition to the program, and felt the piece “perfectly reflects my feelings of love and respect for all of the players, and for the Symphony Orchestra.”

Again in mid-concert, Millie was called on stage to receive special recognition for her long years of service to Melrose. First Rep. Katherine Clark presented a citation of appreciation from the state representatives. Then former Mayor Jim Milano, offering a similar award from the state Senate, signed by Richard Tisei; and finally, Mayor Rob Dolan cheerfully gave Ms. Rich the keys to the city. She was given a standing ovation by the large and appreciative audience — actually, she received two or three standing ovations!

The program skipped around quite a bit due to the praises to Millie, but the opening “Oberon” Overture was a good spirited opening, though with a little stickiness in the violins. The calm and beautiful “Intermezzo” by Mascagni was appreciably done, and two Hungarian Dances by Brahms came off with infectious rhythm, Yoichi relentless in insisting on his spirited tempos.

As usual for the Pops Roundup, Conductor Udagawa donned his shiny “Silly Hat’ that flapped in time to the music. Silly but fun, and part of his amicable rapport with his audience. Millie is right: “He knows how to treat people with respect. Our orchestra is in good hands now,” and she feels that his tenure here is solid for a good length of time. “He is the most talented conductor we’ve ever had.”

Millie Rich can leave for a new home in Florida with confidence that, finally, her beloved symphony is in “good hands” for us, so many welcoming hands that Memorial Hall is filled for his concerts as never before. As she said more than once in her opening remarks, “Yoichi Udagawa is the greatest thing that has ever happened to the Melrose Symphony Orchestra!”

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

Copyright 2010 Melrose Free Press. Some rights reserved.


June 4, 2010


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