What Memorial Hall means to me

... a local gem of acoustical clarity

by Dorothy O'Connor

In 1988 when I moved from Newton to Melrose I knew very little about the city. I had
heard. however, that Melrose had the oldest continuously performing volunteer
orchestra in the United States, the Melrose Symphony Orchestra (MSO), which was
founded in 1918.

About ten years after I became a citizen of Melrose I began hearing rave reviews
about the new conductor of the MSO, Yoichi Udagawa. He was chosen in 1997 to be the
eighth music director of the MSO. How could I not seize the opportunity of hearing
him conduct, if he was as outstanding as people claimed?

I had been blessed with a classical music education when I was growing up in Berlin,
New Hampshire. Berlin, a mere 40 miles from the Canadian border, was quite isolated
in those pre-World War II days. Perhaps because of its isolation, the movers and
shakers were able to attract quality musical performers from far away. For instance,
I still recall vividly being astonished at the ability of a troupe of Russian
dancers to throw their legs out from the knee repeatedly from a squatting position.  

I studied the piano all during my junior and senior high school years and I also
played the French horn. Berlin, which had a population of 20,000 at that time,
supported two civic orchestras. My sister and I played horn in both orchestras and
in the American Legion marching band.

Before moving to Melrose I had had a surprising paucity of good musical events in my
life. I was, however, treated to a few performances of high acoustical quality at
both Symphony Hall and Jordan Hall in Boston. I was more than eager to hear the MSO
under the leadership of Mr. Udagawa.

Melrose Symphony Orchestra concerts were held then (and still are) in Memorial Hall.
When I attended concerts there I was overjoyed at the excellence of the acoustics.
The sounds were true; the sounds were faithful to what the composer intended.
Listening to the MSO in that setting under the baton of Mr. Udagawa is pure joy. The
citizens of Melrose are indeed fortunate to have a building such as Memorial Hall
which enhances and enriches the cultural life of the

May 4, 2012

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