The New England Philharmonic (not to be confused with the Boston Philharmonic) performed a wonderful child-friendly concert with imaginative programming on Sunday, December 13, 2009 at 3 PM at the Tsai Performance Center.
The pieces were warmly and clearly introduced by Maestro Richard Pittman, music director and conductor. Pittman’s vast experience and no-nonsense rehearsals enable him to present programs of challenging music with a mostly volunteer orchestra that plays like professionals. There are, however, many music students, former music students, and professionals in the group, with impressive dedication to the music and to the organization.
The program, less than an hour, was perfect for children. The orchestral balances were very good in Mozart’s “Overture to the Magic Flute,” which cleanly and enthusiastically opened the program. It was followed by William Kraft’s “A Simple Introduction to the Orchestra,” narrated by Joyce Kulhawik. This piece, based on the tune “Frère Jacques,” is played by various sections of the orchestra.
The program finished with Nathaniel Stookey’s The Composer Is Dead, written in 2006 on a text by the best-selling children’s author Lemony Snicket (the pseudonym of Daniel Handler). Commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony, the piece is similar to Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra in that it is intended to introduce young audiences to the instruments in the orchestra.
This challenging piece, also well narrated by Ms. Kulhawik, was accurately performed with panache by the orchestra. The conclusion? Though all composers are sometimes not presented optimally in performance, in the end, it is orchestras and conductors that really keep composers alive, even after they’re dead!
At the end of the concert, Maestro Pittman invited children and adults to come onstage, where instrumentalists were happy to give one-on-one demonstrations, and often let the children play.
The February 27 and May 1 concerts of New England Philharmonic will again present much music that one doesn’t hear elsewhere. Considering the interesting repertoire, not to mention the various parking possibilities around the Tsai Center, it would be great for more people to attend and support the orchestra’s provocative, innovative concerts.