Welcome to the SymphonyNotes Blog!
Christina Gamota, founder and chair of Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners — the sponsoring organization of our upcoming October 18th concert — talks about her lifelong love of music, what makes Lexington Symphony special, and her drive to offer support for large-scale programs, guest artists, and extraordinary musical experiences.
When, why, and by whom was Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners (LSCFP) founded?
It began in 2008. The idea came to me after a Rachmaninoff concert in September of 2007. I was so moved and inspired the brilliant performance of pianist Sergey Schepkin that my mind was full of floating ideas and questions, such as: How can we continue to have concerts like this? How can we set up sponsorships? How can we make it more affordable? I knew we had to use a different approach to draw larger participation, and I thought it could be a partnership created by friends and lovers of music. The purpose of the Fund is to provide substantial financial support for large-scale programs, and to bring renowned guest artists and extraordinary musical experiences to the town of Lexington. With these ideas, I approached Music Director Jonathan McPhee, who was very positive about the idea. He asked me what kind of music I would like to hear. Being Ukrainian by birth, I said, “Chaika, or Tchaikovsky as you know him.” He smiled and said he had some great ideas as well. That was enough for me. One evening soon after, I started approaching friends about the idea and everybody was supportive. By the end of the night, I had five partners. I thought I was halfway to my goal, though later I learned that the figure I was given was only going to cover a little less than half the cost of a concert. It didn’t matter; my objective was to cover the entire concert, and I knew I could do it. We started with 13 partners and three pending. Today, seven years later in 2014, we have 30 partners involved in the Fund.
How did you get involved with Lexington Symphony?
My first meeting was when the Symphony was called Sinfonietta, and they were looking for someone to help them raise money. That was more than 15 years ago. At that time, unfortunately, I was not able to help. In 2006, I was approached again about ideas for fundraising. On June 1, 2007, I had a fundraiser at my residence that featured music and art (art is my other passion).
What makes Lexington Symphony special?
Lexington Symphony provides the community with excellent classical music, and it is also known for its unique outreach program and conductor’s talks. The orchestra engages all age groups in the community from youth to seniors.
Can you talk about your interest in and/or love of music?
As a child of the war and later an immigrant in several countries, I traveled with my dad to many of his choir rehearsals. Music brought hope to my father in strange lands and made him happy. He had a beautiful voice, and music became increasingly important in my life. In my family, music was the hope and memories of the past that sustained us in good and bad times. It was also a new learning experience, as it continues to be.
What is your long-term vision for LSCFP?
My vision for the LSCFP program is that it will continually grow so we will be able to have more large-scale programs, bring in renowned guest artists, and have great concerts. (The list of concerts supported by LSCFP to date is below.)
What is required to become a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners are individuals or families who donate a minimum of $1,000 in support of Lexington Symphony each year. Since its inception, LSCFP has contributed a total of $170,000.
Being a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner has the following benefits: (1) a season preview with maestro Jonathan McPhee; (2) a special invitation to an open rehearsal; (3) two additional tickets to a concert of your choice; and (4) a private post-concert reception. For partners who donate $3,000 and above, a special dinner with Maestro Jonathan McPhee is also offered.
Where can people get more information about supporting Lexington Symphony by becoming a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner?
Anyone who is interested in becoming a Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partner can contact me at email@example.com.
Concerts Supported by Lexington Symphony Concert Fund Partners
2008–2009 Season: November 8, 2008
Mussorgsky, Dawn Over the Moskva River
Tchaikovsky, Violin Concerto
Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4 featuring Irina Muresanu, violin
2009–2010 Season: February 6, 2010
Diamond, Rounds for Strings
Mozart, Piano Concerto No. 21 in C
Copland, Appalachian Spring featuring George Li, piano
2010: November 20, 2010
Mahler, Symphony No. 8
2011–2012 Season: September 17, 2011
Holst, Planets featuring New World Chorale
2012–2013 Season: November 10, 2012
Mahler, Symphony No. 5
2013–2014 Season: November 16, 2013
Beethoven, Symphony No. 9 featuring Michelle Trainor, soprano; Janna Baty, alto; Ray Bauwens, tenor; and Mark Risinger, bass
Ralph Vaughan Williams, Dona Nobis Pacem featuring Michelle Trainor, soprano; Michael Prichard, baritone; and New World Chorale
2014–2015 Season: October 18, 2014
Butterworth, A Shropshire Lad
Elgar, Dream of Gerontius featuring Barbara Quintiliani, soprano; Ray Bauwens, tenor; Aaron Engebreth, baritone; and New World Chorale
Here, we provide an overview of the music of renowned Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, which will be featured at our upcoming 2014-2015 season opener, “Estonian Night,” on Saturday, September 20th.
Arvo Pärt was born in Paide, Estonia, on September 11, 1935, and grew up in Tallinn. From 1958 to 1967, he was employed as a recording director and a composer of music for film and television for the music division of Estonian Radio. During this time, he studied composition under Heino Eller at the Tallinn Conservatory, graduating in 1963. His early works, written while he was still a student (a string quartet and some neoclassic piano music: two Sonatinas and a Partita in 1958) demonstrate the influence of Russian neoclassic composers such as Shostakovich and Prokofiev.
In the early 1970s, Pärt discovered a way of writing music that became uniquely his own. The first composition in Pärt’s new style was the piano piece Für Alina. In this piece, he explores widely spaced pitches on the piano that created a unique openness to the sound of the work. Pärt referred to this new style as “tintinnabuli.” The simplest way to describe this is that his choices of pitches “evoke the pealing of bells, the bells’ complex but rich sonorous mass of overtones, the gradual unfolding of patterns implicit in the sound itself, and the idea of a sound that is simultaneously static and in flux.” Pärt explains the term this way:
“Tintinnabulation is an area I sometimes wander into when I am searching for answers — in my life, my music, my work. In my dark hours, I have the certain feeling that everything outside this one thing has no meaning. The complex and many-faceted only confuses me, and I must search for unity. What is it, this one thing, and how do I find my way to it? Traces of this perfect thing appear in many guises — and everything that is unimportant falls away. Tintinnabulation is like this. . . . The three notes of a triad are like bells. And that is why I call it tintinnabulation.”
When comparing all of Pärt’s post-1976 works, it becomes apparent that his approach to religion has given rise to a humbleness in his artistry. His music is often said to transport the listener to a “moment outside time,” emerging from silence at the beginning of the work and slowly returning to it as the piece closes. Whatever the intention of the pieces, many of his works can be said to reflect the inconceivable sadness that Mary and the disciples felt as Christ was crucified before them on the cross. Music critic Wolfgang Sandner states, “In a world in which Christian ideals are not universally acknowledged, this state of suffering (of the Passion of Christ without which all that comes after Christ cannot occur) is not one that must be artificially created.” The melodic figures, restricted to only a few notes, are powerful in that they are filled with both grace and sadness. Sandner notes that, “Arvo Pärt’s cryptic remarks on his compositions orbit around the words ‘silent’ and ‘beautiful’ — minimal, by now almost imperiled associative notions, but ones which reverberate his musical creations.”
Remarkably, many of the most powerful moments in Pärt’s compositions are a result of the simple action of a single line or the counterpoint created by only two voices. Dissonance is never meant to be abrasive but rather to convey the sense of suffering that is so apparent in many of Pärt’s works. “It has a beauty at once austere and sensuous that seems to be hardly of our time,” says Brian Morton in his book Contemporary Composers. “Yet there can be little doubt that the revelation of his music has been one of the most important factors in the development of a new sensibility in recent music.”
Pärt’s work is spotlighted in the Symphony’s 2014-2015 season opener program, which is offered in honor of his 80th birthday. As a featured guest for the evening, the Symphony welcomes pianist and fellow Estonian Diana Liiv, a favorite performer of Pärt’s works.
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Tubin | Estonian Dance Suite
Pärt | Lamentate for piano and orchestra; Diana Liiv, piano
Pärt | Fur Alina, Für Anna Maria, and Variations for the Healing of Arinushka, for piano
Pärt | Tabula Rasa for solo violin, viola, and string orchestra with prepared piano
Sibelius | Kariela Suite
Sources: Biography by David E. Pinkerton II; Wolfgang Sandner, liner notes for Arvo Pärt Tabula Rasa; Donald J. Grout and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music, 4th ed. (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 1988), 133; Morton and Collins, eds., Contemporary Composers, 729.
In November, Lexington Symphony musicians volunteered their time helping more than 70 Lexington High School students prepare for this year’s MMEA auditions. Concertmaster Liz Whitfield shares her thoughts about the experience.
It is 7:30 a.m. Not too early to be sipping coffee and reading the newspaper in the comfort of my own home, but rather early to be roaming the halls of Lexington High School. The corridors are teaming with teenagers, many in groups — so much talk about the previous day of school. Some are on the floor cramming for a test; others seem oblivious to the cacophony around them, enveloped in their own “surround-sound.” I feel out of place, but I am happily invisible in the crowd. My destination: the music wing.
I, along with many of my friends from Lexington Symphony, will spend an hour or so listening to a multitude of Lexington High student musicians who are preparing for auditions for the Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA) Senior District Festival. Students from around Massachusetts compete for prized spots in orchestra, choir, band, and jazz combo. We are the fortunate ones, helping them on their way just a little.
Over the course of seven days, we attend 13 teaching blocks, during which we listen to up to 81 students. Students show up six to eight at a time and perform their audition pieces in front of their peers — a daunting proposition in and of itself.
Sixty minutes isn’t nearly long enough to listen to three viola players play two movements of a gorgeous piece by Schumann and three violinists play a Mozart concerto. But everyone has a chance to play a piece, along with — of course — a dreaded scale! I make suggestions about phrasing, give a little technical help, and occasionally recommend a little practice with a metronome. Mostly, though, I offer a great deal of encouragement.
I find myself wishing that I could spend a whole block with each student, one at a time. They are quiet, attentive to the performances of their peers, and empathetic about the trickier passages. All too soon, the buzzer interrupts us, calling the kids to their next adventure in learning.
When all is said and done, the students are very appreciative — and hopefully a little better prepared for their auditions. As passionate musicians and devoted members of Lexington Symphony, we are thankful to have had the opportunity to share just a little of our “craft” with these talented young people.
On my way home, I can’t help but think about the Mozart concerto. Perhaps I will make the time to do a little work on it — with a metronome!