Showing posts with label Longwood. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Longwood. Show all posts

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Longwood Organ Dedication

Normally we don’t blog non-Delaware events, but since this was a DuPont event just up the road from the Delaware border, it would seem churlish not to write about one of the most affable and accomplished musicians around: Peter Richard Conte, Grand Court Organist for the Wanamaker organ in Philadelphia who played the re-dedication concert on the restored Aeolian symphonic organ before a sold-out crowd including Maestro David Amado, Nathan Hayward and Governor Pete Dupont. (Tickets sold out the day they went on sale in September 2010.)

Staff at Longwood tell me that in the weeks before the concert, Mr. Conte would come to practice after the restoration team had put away their drills late at night and stay for hours – and then would sneak in at the crack of dawn to play some more before the restorers arrived to work on the project, handing the banished musician coffee as a consolation.

But not only did Peter Richard Conte play an incredibly difficult program on Friday, February 4, having carefully prepared exploited as many of the stops and whistles as possible, but he wrote a brief erudite yet humorous introduction for every piece. He had known Firmin Swinnen, the first concert organist in residence who helped design the Aelion symphonic organ. Mr. Conte played some of his works – and made sure a computerized of an actual performance by Mr. Swinnen was featured.

The highlight of the Friday night concert was Mr. Conte’s performance of an incredibly demanding piece composed by Marcel Dupré, who had actually performed it at Longwood. Mr. Conte’s performance of Variations sur un Noël, opus 20, pour grande orgue and his registration of the piece gave it the texture and variety that it deserved.

But I salute Mr. Conte not just for his mastery of music, but for his outstanding affability. He stayed after the concert, was easily approachable and friendly to all – young and old, allowing them to enjoy the experience of knowing a true artist.

He returned in the morning for a more technical demonstration of the organ and answered all questions from young and old with eagerness, humor and respect.

Bravo, Mr. Conte and kudos to Paul Redman for taking the initiative to invest in restoring Longwood to its former elegance.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Music and gardens

This Thursday, April 22, the Brandywine Baroque ensemble will play in the Copeland Lecture Hall at Winterthur Gardens. The weather should be good for a visit to the gardens and you can finish out the beautiful afternoon by enjoying the amazing sounds of Delaware’s premiere Baroque ensemble. Karen Flint, harpsichord, Doug McNames, cello, Eileen Grycky, flute, Cynthia Freivogel and Martin Davids, violin, and Laura Heimes, soprano can easily take you back to the eighteenth century as you imagine the life at a large estate like this stately gem.

Could this be a revival of the partnership between music and public gardens? How wonderful it is to visit Lewes and hear an outdoor concert by the Delaware Symphony in July – with birds swooping overhead, two-year-olds frolicking and dancing to patriotic marches and marveling at the fireworks that end the evening. Or to enjoy the weekly lunchtime concerts hosted each May through July on the waterfront by the Riverfront Development Corporation of Wilmington.

Longwood has had a long history of musical performances – they have even had the Philadelphia Orchestra twice and they host a Wine and Jazz Fest in the summer and have myriad concerts throughout the year.

Longtime Delaware Symphony Orchestra members recall many chamber concerts in the lecture hall at Winterthur – some followed by formal teas in the cafeteria. Pam Nelson, violist, and Chuck Holdeman, bassoonist told me the symphony used to play at the Arts and Crafts Festivals, at Rockwood, and at the County Pride Festival in Rockford Park. There had been a long-standing date for the DSO to end the summer with a rousing performance of the 1812 Overture complete with cannons shot from the grounds of Winterthur. What fun and what a wonderful opportunity to introduce young people to the joys of classical music!

Long may the union of classical music and gardens last! For details on Brandywine Baroque’s upcoming performance, visit Winterthur’s website or call 800.448.3883.