Concert Review: RSO's Oct. 2 performance will benefit hurricane relief

On Sunday afternoon, Oct. 2, Steven Larsen led a Rockford Symphony that drew in many new names, while missing many of the more familiar faces that had other commitments elsewhere. The musicians all donated their time and talent to draw an audience to the Coronado, which also waived its usual charges, to raise money for the flood-ravaged city of New Orleans; the program recalled the spirits of that city with a wonderful mixture of nostalgia, tradition and hope.

The proceeds will be added to the funds raised by a coalition of the Rockford Register Star, WREX-13 and the Community Foundation of Northern Illinois, for the Rock River Valley Hurricane Relief Fund, which promises to double its original goal.

The concert opened with a crash (from the new timpani?) to herald Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man (1942), a swift demonstration of brass and percussion, to set the tone for the event. Larsen then proceeded to account for how each number happened to be included in the program—bypassing the obvious problems of assembling the scores, rehearsing with some new musicians, and getting out the publicity in a short time. Introducing the Overture to Nicolai’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, Larsen admitted that the one tie here to the New Orleans disaster could be the scene where Falstaff is dunked headfirst into the River Thames, which at Falstaff’s time was as fouled as the waters that swept last month over New Orleans.

As we might suspect, the program offered such a variety of musical moments that each listener could go home treasuring their own favorite “high point” of the afternoon. For myself, I’m torn between two memories—first the rich voice of Dorothy Paige-Turner, husky in its low tones, clarion clear in the treble, always drawing the listener with her dramatic stage presence and presentation. Her New Orleans costume, a colorful patchwork gown with matching turban, completed the scene.

But in contrast, though equally magical, there was the amazing performance by Joel Ross of a Flanders and Swann number titled “Ill Wind” (adapted from Mozart’s Horn Concerto K 495). I had heard the concerto often, but was uncertain what Joel Ross would do with it—had he taken up the horn? What would be his act?—well, he sang the entire familiar movement, duplicating the musical nature and character of the French horn, while telling the story of how he had practiced the “allegro” but, horrors!, someone swiped his horn! Singing his sad tale, he covered at least two (maybe three?) octaves (ad libbing when he barely missed his deepest note that “this is not a perfect world!”) and reproducing the varied tones of the French horn when played in the different registers. Larsen’s comment that Joel Ross is “versatile” so greatly understates the case!

Andrea Bear brought her Broadway zest to a couple of George M. Cohan tunes, and returned to the stage with Dorothy Paige-Turner and Gail Ketteler for the closing number, “We Rise Again,” arranged by Steve Larsen, who also had done the arrangements for Dorothy Paige-Turner’s two Randy Newman songs—“I think it’s going to rain today” and “Louisiana 1927.”

If you missed the concert, you missed a great afternoon, and one more chance to celebrate the amount of talent that we harbor in this town.

Fromt the Oct. 5-11, 2005, issue

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