Musical Stories

Musical Stories

McLean Orchestra adopts a literary theme for '05-06 concert series.

<bt>Music lovers and literature fans alike should find something to enjoy at the McLean Orchestra this season, as the musicians prepare for the upcoming concert series entitled "A Novel Approach."

"This is our 34th season and it should prove to be really exciting," said Nicole Fauteux, acting executive director with the McLean Orchestra.

The literary theme will "try to incorporate some spoken word performances into some of the concerts," she said. "In February, we will have a pair of actors performing scenes from 'Romeo and Juliet' during the concert. There will be someone reading excepts from Dante's 'Inferno' during our concert in October," further uniting the literary and musical worlds, she said.

The season will begin with a free family concert on Oct. 2, featuring music from the score of the Harry Potter movies, along with pieces from the "Mother Goose Suite" by Ravel, a selection from Adamo's "Little Women" opera and "Adventures in a Perambulator" by Carpenter, Fauteux said.

"That piece tells the story of a baby being taken for a walk in his stroller by his nanny," she said. "The music tells us his emotions and reactions to what he's seeing out in the world."

Joining the orchestra for her third season will be Maestra Sylvia Alimena, music director and conductor of the orchestra.

"It's important to find the right pieces to go along with the theme, but I also wanted to make sure all the pieces worked together," Alimena said. "It's been quite a challenge, but it's also been very exciting and interesting."

The concert in October will be called "The Way of All Flesh," she said, and will feature "La Valse" and "Bolero" by Ravel, the "Danse Macabre" and "Samson et Dalila" by Saint-Saens, along with "Francesca da Rimini" by Tchaikovsky, which will include a reading of Dante's "Inferno" to act out the story of Francesca, "a women condemned to hell for pursuing a forbidden love," according to the Orchestra's concert schedule.

"This concert is all about decadence," Alimena said.

IN DECEMBER, the theme will turn to holiday music, including "Winter" from Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," "Christmas Festival," Bugler's "Holiday," "White Christmas," "What Child is This," "The Carol of the Bells" and "The Festive Sounds of Hanukah."

"We really wanted to include something that would bring the holidays to life and allow everyone to really enjoy the season," she said.

Offering orchestral music in McLean "for people who don't want to drive into Washington" is a major goal for the orchestra, she said. "We cater to the basic music lover but also to our neighbors who would rather attend a great concert closer to home."

Alimena has been handing out information about the upcoming season on Sunday mornings in front of the McLean Family Restaurant in the hopes of expanding the potential audience for the orchestra, she said.

"If more people knew about us, they might come to more of our concerts. Standing out there every Sunday morning is about getting to meet people and getting them interested in us," she said.

This will be the 17th year that Ron Foster has played second trombone with the orchestra, which he has seen make "great improvements" under Alimena's supervision.

"It's a real pleasure to work with Sylvia. Since she took over, rehearsals have been a lot more interesting and very rewarding," he said. Trombones have a lot of downtime during rehearsals, he said, and he used to bring books to fill his time. "I really enjoy watching her work, especially with the string instruments. She tells them how she'd like them to grip their bows, where she'd like their fingers to be, how she wants them to grip their strings. She's a very specific instructor," Foster said.

Having a theme for the concert series may not impact the musicians as much as the audience, he said, as the musicians may not know how the pieces for a particular concert fit together until the night of the performance when Alimena tells the audience.

"It draws in the audience's interest in our program," he said.

REGINO MADRID will be joining the orchestra as its concert master this year, which means he will be an "advisor" to the other string musicians.

"I get to make the final decision on how we play things so we all play it together," he said.

A 26-year violinist, Madrid has worked with Alimena in the past before being invited to join the orchestra this year. "I did some concerts with her earlier this year and she invited me to join them," he said. "The repertoire she put together is great, there are a lot of pieces that this orchestra hasn't played before, which will be a good challenge for all of us."

Among the biggest challenges for the year will be the inclusion of Stravinsky's "Firebird" during the March concert, entitled "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," which will feature Elizabeth Adkins on violin.

"This is quite a large piece, and it will most likely be the biggest one we'll play all year," Madrid said.

The orchestra is also hoping to expand its Youth Orchestra component, said Ken Nunnenkamp, president of the orchestra's board of directors.

"The Youth Orchestra has been around for 25 years and provides an opportunity for up to 70 members of the youth musician community to play, but we're hoping to revitalize it this year," he said. "We want more people to be aware of it and maybe audition or at least come out to hear them play. We want it to be a bigger part of what we do in the community."