Soundings: Symphonia previews Bermuda performance

The Virginia Gazette
Soundings column: Symphonia previews performance at Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts

While much of the area was still working its way through the remnants of snow Monday evening, Williamsburg Symphonia members were readying for the much warmer climes of Bermuda, the location for its special Jan. 29 program celebrating the historic connection between Bermuda and Jamestown.

A distinct feather in the Symphonia's cap, and yet another indication of the extraordinary growth this fine orchestra has achieved under the baton of Janna Hymes, the group was invited to perform in the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

The visit recognizes the connection between the two locales, notably when British supply ship the Sea Venture en route to Jamestown from Bermuda crashed in 1609. Surviving settlers there built additional ships to carry supplies on to Jamestown.Later, some survivors returned to Bermuda, established a settlement and, eventually, along with Jamestown, fell under management of the Virginia Company of London.

To recognize this affiliation, the Symphonia commissioned Michael Williamson, former director of bands at William and Mary, to write a commemorative piece."Sea Venture: Songs of the Early Settlers of Bermuda and Jamestown" was premiered at a special pre-departure concert appropriately held in Jamestown Settlement's Robins Foundation Theatre.

While Williamson is known for his big band and jazz affiliations, his "Sea Venture" draws on period dance, singing and drinking songs of the era, touches of Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky, "God Save the Queen," and calypso to depict the spirit of those settlers and the long-standing bond between Bermuda and Jamestown.It's a pleasant work that the Symphonia fully embraced, delivering its multi-themed lines with dedication and clarity.

The evening's fare also included Debussy's "Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun," Ibert's "Divertissement," Copland's suite from "Appalachian Spring," and several Joplin rags.

The Debussy was not the familiar full orchestral version but one arranged by a student of Arnold Schoenberg for small ensemble. The result was a new awareness of the beauty of the piece, with inner workings transformed into intimate expressions of color and warmth.It was In many ways more compelling than the original, especially as played with the levels of sensitivity and awareness heard here.

The Ibert, played on the orchestra's regular series some years ago, is a quirky, highly rhythmic, light and charming piece that the group played with sustained energy and musical humor.

The Copland overflows with rich harmonies, lyrical lines, and gentleness.It fit the Symphonia like the proverbial glove, its performance given intense sensitivity and care that was emotionally placed.The flow was flawless and fine.

The evening closed with Joplin's "The Entertainer," "Maple Leaf Rag" and "The Ragtime Dance."There was ragtime toe tapping all through the audience, making it an appealing conclusion to a rewarding program that will, no doubt, find a happy reception in Bermuda's Earl of Cameron Theatre.

While on the island, the Symphonia string quartet will present a candlelight concert in St. Peter's Church featuring music of Haydn, Bridge, Mendelssohn and Piazzola and members of the Symphonia will spend time at the Bermuda School of Music. A trio from the Symphonia will also perform at a welcome reception for the group at the United States Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig and Robert Koenig's home, making this a royal start to what should be a royally entertaining series of musical events.

 

While much of the area was still working its way through the remnants of snow Monday evening, Williamsburg Symphonia members were readying for the much warmer climes of Bermuda, the location for its special Jan. 29 program celebrating the historic connection between Bermuda and Jamestown.

A distinct feather in the Symphonia's cap, and yet another indication of the extraordinary growth this fine orchestra has achieved under the baton of Janna Hymes, the group was invited to perform in the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts.

The visit recognizes the connection between the two locales, notably when British supply ship the Sea Venture en route to Jamestown from Bermuda crashed in 1609. Surviving settlers there built additional ships to carry supplies on to Jamestown. Later, some survivors returned to Bermuda, established a settlement and, eventually, along with Jamestown, fell under management of the Virginia Company of London.

To recognize this affiliation, the Symphonia commissioned Michael Williamson, former director of bands at William and Mary, to write a commemorative piece.“Sea Venture: Songs of the Early Settlers of Bermuda and Jamestown” premiered at a special pre-departure concert appropriately held in Jamestown Settlement's Robins Foundation Theatre.

While Williamson is known for his big band and jazz affiliations, his “Sea Venture” draws on period dance, singing and drinking songs of the era, touches of Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky, “God Save the Queen,” and Calypso to depict the spirit of those settlers and the long-standing bond between Bermuda and Jamestown.

It's a pleasant work that the Symphonia fully embraced, delivering its multi-themed lines with dedication and clarity.

The evening's fare also included Debussy's “Prelude to an Afternoon of a Faun,” Ibert's “Divertissement,” Copland's suite from “Appalachian Spring,” and several Joplin rags.

The Debussy was not the familiar full orchestral version but one arranged by a student of Arnold Schoenberg for small ensemble. The result was a new awareness of the beauty of the piece, with inner workings transformed into intimate expressions of color and warmth. It was in many ways more compelling than the original, especially as played with the levels of sensitivity and awareness heard here.

The Ibert is a quirky, highly rhythmic, light and charming piece that the group played with sustained energy and musical humor.

The Copland overflows with rich harmonies, lyrical lines, and gentleness. It fit the Symphonia like the proverbial glove, its performance given intense sensitivity and care that was emotionally placed. The flow was flawless and fine.

The evening closed with Joplin's “The Entertainer,” “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Ragtime Dance.” There was ragtime toe tapping all through the audience, making it an appealing conclusion to a rewarding program that will, no doubt, find a happy reception in Bermuda's Earl of Cameron Theatre.

While on the island, the Symphonia string quartet will present a candlelight concert in St. Peter's Church featuring music of Haydn, Bridge, Mendelssohn and Piazzola and members of the Symphonia will spend time at the Bermuda School of Music.

A trio from the Symphonia will also perform at a welcome reception for the group at the United States Consul General Mary Ellen Koenig and Robert Koenig's home, making this a royal start to what should be a royally entertaining series of musical events.

Shulson can be reached at shulark@cox.net.

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