Showing posts with label Wilmington Community Orchestra. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wilmington Community Orchestra. Show all posts

Thursday, March 17, 2022

JBD MusicWorks Discuss the World Premiere of Flamingos by WCO

Delaware Arts Info reviewer Charles "Ebbie" Alfree III discusses the new composition Flamingos with John Lilley, Brent Edmondson and Daniel Gallery of JBD MusicWorks

The Wilmington Community Orchestra will perform Flamingos along with two other pieces as part of their Romantic concert on Sunday, March 20, 2022, 3:00pm at The Music School of Delaware's Wilmington Branch. The performance will also feature Miles Brown, bass soloist. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10/person and may be reserved at the Music School's website.

The Wilmington Community Orchestra is an ensemble of the Music School and is led by Music Director Joseph Hodge. This accomplished amateur ensemble performs standard symphonic and concerto repertoire in 3-4 performances each season at the Music School.

About the piece, Gallery has previously noted: "Flamingos represent and symbolize balance, grace and beauty, and pink flamingos are considered a symbol of innocence and teach us to have confidence. This piece reflects the beauty of this innocence as they take their first flight."

For information about the artists and for tickets to the performance, visit

Friday, June 25, 2021

Joseph Hodge Named Music Director of Wilmington Community Orchestra

Joseph Hodge is the new Music Director of
the Wilmington Community Orchestra.
The Music School of Delaware's Wilmington Community Orchestra – an accomplished amateur ensemble for ages 18+ that performs standard symphonic and concerto repertoire –has announced that Joseph Hodge will be taking over the role of Music Director for the 2021-2022 season.

"We're very excited to have him on board," said Music School Dean Cheri Astolfi. "We reviewed almost 12 resumes and CVs, and we were delighted when he was interested in auditioning for the position."

Winds and brass players – with WCO members Mindy Bowman observing for the woodwinds and Steve Getty observing for the brass 
 also felt that he was an excellent choice and selection for the winds and for the ensemble.

Praised for his “musicianship and energy on stage” (Manchester Journal Inquirer), Joseph Hodge has previously served as the Music Director of the Manchester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, Connecticut Valley Symphony Orchestra, and Hartford Opera Theater. Guest conducting engagements have brought him across the country to work with opera companies and orchestras alike, including the Jackson Symphony, Charlottesville Symphony, Wintergreen Chamber Orchestra, Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestra, Hartford All-City Youth Orchestra, Charlottesville Opera, Abilene Opera Association, Houghton Lyric Theater, and Oberlin Winter Opera. 

A champion of new music, Mr. Hodge has conducted many World Premieres, including Rachel Peters’ Wild Beasts of the Bungalow with Oberlin Winter Opera in 2020. Mr. Hodge holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford, and is currently finishing his Doctorate in Orchestral Conducting at Michigan State University. He has previously studied conducting with Kevin Noe, Edward Cumming, Christopher Zimmerman, and Kate Tamarkin.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The British Arrived for a World Premiere with WCO

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes.

On Sunday afternoon, March 23, the Wilmington Community Orchestra presented its The British Are Coming program at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington. Its big splash was a World Premiere — a fairly rare experience for an amateur orchestra, the kind that plays for the love of it.  But indeed the composer is a professional: Dr. David Osbon, who had come from London to conduct his new work, a violin concerto written for local virtuoso Timothy Schwarz, also the orchestra's regular conductor.  Schwarz conducted the program's second half, which comprised most of the great British composer Sir Edward Elgar's masterpiece, The Enigma Variations.  Three variations were removed because of the enormous demands on rehearsal time to prepare the difficult violin concerto.

While the purpose of this blog is primarily to boost awareness of the rich artistic life of our community through reporting, there is also a side function — that of arts critic. This function is a traditional part of writing about the arts: Readers generally expect writers to offer an answer to, 'Well, how good was it?'  And that puts me in a tight spot because, in a word (six actually), I didn't like the new concerto.  At the same time, I am glad to report that many people did — many in the audience rose to their feet in appreciation, and there were many boisterous bravos!

Composer Osbon gave an extended, often humorous speech, along with conducting numerous excerpted examples of the music, to introduce his ambitious new work. He frequently used the descriptive word 'aggressive,' and indeed there was a lot of loud, high energy music. Even when calmer moments appeared, the composer seemed eager to return to the aggressive as soon as possible.  And the work was not a violin concerto in the usual sense, but rather an orchestral piece with many notes for the solo violin to play (some people say this about Stravinsky's violin concerto).  An exception was the virtuosic cadenza (violin alone) which featured swooping glissandi on one violin string while others sounded a gossamer background — an arresting novel effect. Still, the large quantity of fairly relentless rhythmic and tonal aggression in what is primarily a gestural compositional style was just not my cup of tea. (Perhaps I should also admit that I am not a fan of action movies.)  And I was reminded that I had a very similar reaction to a Philadelphia premiere, that of John Adams' City Noir with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic.  So, at least Osbon and the WCO are in good company, in terms of music I did not like!

I must credit Schwarz's skill and determination in the demanding solo part, and also credit the young percussion section, imported from the University of Delaware. The extensive and vigorous percussion writing had a unifying effect on the entire proceeding.

After intermission, The Enigma Variations were easier on the ears. The score is complicated, difficult in terms of both ensemble playing and playing in tune. Despite this, the conductor and orchestra communicated the music's tunefulness, harmonic richness, and great range of expression, from jauntiness to the sublime, especially in the ultra-romantic variation entitled Nimrod, which Elgar composed to honor his friend Jaeger. (Nimrod was a biblical hunter, and Jaeger is German for hunter.) Jaeger was the kind of friend (and Elgar's editor) who could convincingly say to the composer, 'keep going, keep writing,' even when Elgar was seriously assailed by doubts and discouragement.

Despite this mixed review, Schwarz, the orchestra, the Music School, and David Osbon are to be applauded for their ambition and dedication in presenting this program, which was plenty provocative. Osbon had visited and met the orchestra a year ago, and so his new concerto was a rigorous effort to feature the Wilmington Community Orchestra and its leader Timothy Schwarz.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Wilmington Community Orchestra opens season with Mozart and Stravinsky

The Wilmington Community Orchestra has grown so much that they could hardly fit anyone else on the stage at the Music School of Delaware, but that growth is due to the patience, enthusiasm and energy of Dr. Timothy Schwarz, who has been conducting the orchestra since 2007. 

The first program of their 2013-2014 season began with Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major, K417 played by Music School of Delaware faculty member Dr. Anna Skrupky.  Dr. Skrupky, whose inspiration to study music started in her public school music classes, played entirely from memory.  She is young and quite petite, but her sound on the horn is robust and lively.  The orchestra was able to lower their dynamic level easily and smoothly for the horn solos and the ripieno parts where the orchestral horns joined in were also quiet and controlled – but when full orchestra was called for, they also had a strong and well-intoned response.

 After the spritely Mozart came the tough nugget of the concert version of Stravinsky’s Petrouchka, a ballet which is based on a traditional Lenten character of Petrouchka,  the puppet who is made of straw, but comes to life.  Petrouchka falls in love with a beautiful ballerina puppet and contends with the Moor puppet for her affection.  An evil charlatan spices up the mix and this gives Stravinsky license to compose all sorts of musical scenarios like wild spring fairs, contrasting rhythms and harmonies and dueling clarinets, trumpets, contrasting chords and other musical innovations which the orchestra played with gusto – quite a feat for an amateur orchestra. 

 Having guests Mark Livshits, a doctoral candidate from Temple University on the piano and Elizabeth Morgan-Ellis, a Temple graduate, on the harp provided great musical anchoring for the performance which brought the Wilmington Community Orchestra to a new level of achievement. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reporting from the Grand Opera House Stage

The Grand Opera
On Monday, May 14, I hurried home from work, wolfed down a cold supper and zoomed off to the Grand Opera House.  Dr. Tim Schwarz had offered the Wilmington Community Orchestra a chance to warm up in the hall so we could get the feel of it before the concert.  Unfortunately, when I arrived to warm up, the people in charge would not let me touch the piano, so I sat on the bleachers and played air piano during the warm up.

After the air warm-up, I zipped over to the Sarah Bernhardt Room – a beautifully paneled side-room on your left as you enter the Grand Opera House.  There was a short chamber concert before the orchestral performance which was a great program performed mainly by the adult members of the Wilmington Community Orchestra and some of their friends.  A flute trio by Kaspar Kummer, a modern tango for strings, the first movement of the Beethoven Wind Octet in E-Flat Major, Opus 103,  a movement of the Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major by Mozart and a wind quintet by Darius Milhaud called La Cheminée du Roi René.  Note:  Bassoonist Jennifer Hugh came in as a last minute sub and did a great job in both the chamber works and the symphonic works and she has a heavy gig this coming Sunday in the Newark Symphony.  Brava!

Then I followed the crowd back to the main hall for the concerto winner performances.  The orchestra sounded fantastic in the Grand – man, do they have wonderful acoustics.  I enjoyed hearing the young concerto winners.  Marius Sander(student of Eliezer Gutman)  played the first movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E Minor, Opus 64,  Madeline Cheong (student of Jennifer Chen) played the Mendelssohn Piano Concerto in G Minor, Opus 25 and Alexis Meschter (student of Lee Snyder) played the Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Minor by Henri Vieuxtemps.

I went to the beginning of the intermission chamber concert – an excellent rendition by some young students of the MozartQuintet for Clarinet and Strings, K 581, but left early to check out the stage.  First of all, since the stage hands moved the piano, I had no idea if I would be able to see the conductor from wherever they put it.  Secondly, I feared that I would not be able to get on the stage after the chorus and all the musicians were in place.

I went and dutifully tested the piano bench, closed to half stick so the lid wouldn’t block my view of the conductor and tested a few quiet notes which sounded amazingly loud from the stage.  I couldn’t start practicing full force because the audience had already started to come back in.  So, nerves up and move on.

I enjoyed watching the Delaware Children’s Chorus come shyly on stage from my offstage vantage point.  They were trying so hard to do the right thing and were small and adorable.  Dr. Schwarz mouthed the words for them to help as they sang.  Then the Delaware Women’s Chorus joined them on stage.

Next was my gig on the piano so I went on stage from the piano side (no percussion to stumble over on that side) and survived my piece.  I rushed off and went under the grand in the cavernous passage to the steps to the front lobby.  I was delighted to have seen the backstage that all my friends use before they play with the Delaware Symphony.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sneak Peak – Wilmington Community Orchestra

A cold Monday evening finds about 50 people on the stage of the Music School of Delaware rehearsing for the Wilmington Community Orchestra performance this Sunday, February 7.

Tim Schwarz, conductor, starts the rehearsal right on time and the dancing lilt of the Bach Orchestral Suite in D Major starts to warm the hall. The three trumpets and two oboes give the smaller orchestra a festive sound.

Then chairs shift as the other members join the group for the Beethoven Symphony No. 1 in C Major, Opus 21. The strings take the challenge of the exposed writing – the seconds opened the Andante cantabile and the firsts start the final movement at a very soft dynamic of challenging scale work which the other sections jump in and imitate in the Allegro molto e vivace. Schwarz illustrates a few points by borrowing concertmaster Larry Hamermesh’s violin and the string players nod. It is a luxury to have a conductor able to demonstrate the sound he wants.

But Schwarz provides a more dramatic demonstration as he plays his own violin while Sam Fuhrman does the cover conducting for the Brahms Concerto for violin, cello and orchestra. Fuhrman does a fine job leading the orchestra which will be conducted by Dr. Richard Prior of Emery University in Atlanta for the Sunday performance. Lawrence Stomberg plays the cello solo part with the strongest and most resonant sounds I have ever heard in person and Schwarz has plenty of power to match that force on the violin.

The Brahms is still running through my head.


Monday, November 16, 2009

It Takes a Special Person

There are tons of gifted musicians, but few who can communicate to others how to make better music. Tim Schwartz proved that he is one of those few with the wonderful performance he conducted of the Wilmington Community Orchestra at the Music School of Delaware on November 15.

The Bacchanal from Camille Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila showed me how far the WCO string section has come in intonation - providing a smooth background for the delightful snake charmer themes played by the oboe (Gary Walter), flute (Melinda Bowman, Susan Ryan, Emily Waddell) and clarinets (Michelle Webb and Anthony Pantelopulos). Sam Fuhrman’s cymbal playing had a long dynamic build-up which gave the frenzied color to the whole ballet. The spice of Melany Hoffman’s castanets and Debra Bialecki’s timpani added an exotic flavor.

In the Symphony No. 94 by Franz Josef Haydn, the Surprise Symphony, the strings also met the challenge, forming an excellent unison chorus behind solo winds. Susan Ryan’s flute entrances were spot on and the bassoon responses by Kathy Melvin in the Menuetto: Allegro Molto were clear and delightful. Laura Reimer’s first oboe part was delicate in its simple classical line.

But the pièce de resistance for me was the Second Piano Concerto in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms. I had been listening to a record of Emil Gilels’ performance with the Berliner Philharmonic all week and had concluded that no mortal could play the piano part. Sandra Rivers walked out on stage, sat down and calmly proved me wrong. Her ability to bend to the orchestra showed her mastery of the piece. She made sure that not only were the difficult technical fireworks going to land in the right place, but that her playing could melt into the most delicious soft tones, lifting melody over absolutely quiet arpeggiations and accompaniments and taking the sound of the open lid piano so low that Jennifer Stomberg’s beautiful cello solo could resound without being crowded.

My hat is off to both Ms. Rivers and Mr. Schwarz for using their innate musical abilities and boundless energy to make such a successful performance possible for this dedicated amateur orchestra.

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