Tuesday, December 05, 2006

DIY Symphony

You can do it yourself. You can start your own garage band, your own church choir, your own string quartet, your own symphony.

What a relief! All these ideas were reconfirmed for Betty on Sunday night at St. Paul's German Church on West 22nd St., where she'd rushed on foot to see the magnificent little experiment that is The Chelsea Symphony.

Founded by young musicians Miguel Campos Neto and Yaniv Segal, the orchestra debuted in May of 2006 and made its home in Chelsea. Its members all perform double, triple, or quadruple (!) duty in the group, playing, conducting, composing, and helping to administer the new nonprofit (from selling ads to penning analysis of the pieces they perform for program-readers).

Last weekend's program included one of the most perfect, and yet most eclectic, all-encompassing pieces of Romantic music ever conceived: Brahm's 2nd Symphony. Geoffrey Robson conducted passionately and the orchestra hit all its spots. The audience was freaking out by the middle of the fourth movement, and applauded with real gratitude when it was done.

A nice Mozart concertante followed, featuring four talented, sensitive soloists (on oboe, clarinet, French horn and bassoon) and crisp conducting and orchestral accompaniment. It was clear that this piece was written in just a few days, as opposed to the heftier Brahms, which was written over four months (this was an outpouring, and perhaps why the piece is so animated and insistent - Brahms had labored over his First Symphony for over 20 years). Oh, Brahms, you're so heavy and great! Oh, Mozart, stop showing off! Apparently, young W.A. just scribbled it down and sold the score in a second. He could remember his composition in his head, should he need it later.

The final piece was a new work by the young local composer Aaron Dai. An accompaniment to "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" ("Twas the Night Before Christmas...") by Clement C. Moore, the poet-gentleman who gave Chelsea its name and Americans their Santa, the piece walked a fine line between tradition and experiment. Narrator Richard Kind (of Curb Your Enthusiasm fame) performed Moore's poem from the pulpit with a similar combination of familiar cadences of quirky innovation.

It's just so great for Chelsea to have this inimitable cultural resource and the energy and talent that's driving it. After the concert, the whole orchestra hung out with the audience at a local bar. Their openness, professionalism, and intention to stay in the community could not be more clear. If you want to hear real classical music and be able to see the players' eyeballs and budding talent up close, go check out the Chelsea Symphony. After a Christmastime collaboration with Clay Aiken (!), their next full performances - which will include Brahms' 3rd Symphony- are in February 2007.

[Photo Courtesy of the Chelsea Symphony]

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