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The Cincinnati Symphony Reaches Out

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Oct 9, 2007 - 12:00:00 AM in reviews_2007, news_2007

Standing ovation following Cincinnati Symphony concert at Lakota Freshman School in West Chester, Ohio Oct. 9, 2007

A smile can be worth a thousand words and the one Paavo Järvi cast over his shoulder during a Cincinnati Symphony concert at Lakota Freshman School in West Chester Oct. 9 was one of them.
   The smile was prompted by a toddler who began to cry during the opening bars of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” Overture.  Järvi has two young daughters and clearly empathized with the caretaker’s need to exit temporarily.    
   The event, Järvi’s first community concert with the CSO, was also the first time “to my knowledge,” said CSO public relations director Carrie Krysanick, the CSO has performed a fund-raiser for an outside organization.
   The concert netted $15,000 for the Lakota West and Lakota East band programs.  The 300-member Lakota West marching band has been invited to represent Southwest Ohio in the 2008 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena on New Year’s Day.  The Lakota East band will travel to Hawaii to participate in the 2008 Waikiki Holiday Parade coinciding with the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and to perform on the USS Missouri.   
   Tickets for the concert -- $20 for adults, $10 for children, $100 for patrons -- sold out in seven days, said Jon Weidlich, spokesman for the Lakota schools.
   The auditorium at Lakota Freshman, which seats about 800, was filled with parents, students and members of the Lakota Upbeat (band boosters) Club.  It was a rare opportunity to experience the CSO up close and personal (Järvi's smile, for instance) and went a long way toward breaking down the barriers that exist between the orchestra and the larger community.
   The atmosphere was almost festive and included refreshments at intermission.  There was a table in the hallway to purchase raffle tickets, band souvenirs and to learn more about the Lakota bands.
   The program for the concert was an appealing one, with overtures by Beethoven and Wagner and Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major, featuring CSO principal flutist Randolph Bowman.  The CSO had performed all of the music at Music Hall in Cincinnati in September.
   It was a tight squeeze onstage, necessitating a reduced number of strings, and Järvi and Bowman made their entrances from steps leading up from the audience.  A modest shell helped direct the sound out into the hall and acoustics were live, if a bit hard and unforgiving.
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra onstage at Lakota West High School in West Chester, Ohio

   There was very little to forgive, save for a few bloopers in the horns in “Fidelio” as they warmed to their task.
   Bowman wrapped the Mozart concerto in his characteristic pure, sweet tones and made it sparkle in the nimblest passages.  He and Järvi worked with the utmost communication, making for an endearing performance.
   Though fewer in number and more exposed than at Music Hall, the CSO strings sounded wonderful all evening.  The violins nailed their treacherous high A in Wagner’s Prelude to “Die Meistersinger” with pinpoint precision, a rare occurrence for any string section in any orchestra.  Surprisingly, it was the brass, if anyone, that projected less well into the hall, some of their sound seeming to get trapped in the flies above the stage.
   “Forest Murmurs” from Wagner’s opera “Siegfried” offered a virtual aviary of woodwinds, with fine contributions by principals Dwight Parry, Jasmine Choi and Jonathan Gunn on oboe, flute and clarinet.
   Wagner’s “Tannhauser” Overture brought the concert to a stirring close and the crowd rose to their feet for their third (or fourth) ovation of the evening...
    “That last chord was soo delicious,” a young girl remarked on her way out.  “It’s so much better to hear it live,” said another.
   Järvi attended a post-concert reception for patrons and donors at Wetherington Golf and Country Club in West Chester.
  The CSO performs regional pops concerts and three or four diversity/outreach concerts at African-American churches each summer, but actual regional and community concerts have disappeared over the years, said Krysanick.
   The Lakota concert signaled a new direction “You could say it was a test of this type of model and we would love to be able to duplicate it.”
   Community concerts need a few things to “make sense,” she said.  “One is a groundswell of support to have some sponsorship dollars to offset the direct costs.  By that, I mean the moving and shipping of instruments, loading and unloading.  Then you need a community like Lakota where you haven’t really played before.”
   Järvi “totally wants to do this again,” said Krysanick.  “He was energized and excited.  We think it was a huge success, so our intention is definitely to do it again.”