Boston Symphony Orchestra Community Concerts bring music up close and personal

Courtesy BSO

When you think of Boston Symphony Orchestra, you think of going to grand orchestral concerts at the Hub’s renown, well-loved Symphony Hall. But with the BSO’s Community Concert series, the music is brought to you.

Courtesy BSO
Courtesy BSO

Though it was a downpour on Sunday Oct 9, the weather didn’t stop the audience from filling the Methuen Memorial Music Hall for the first of this season’s BSO Community Concerts.  This series of concerts connects the Boston Symphony Orchestra to communities in the Greater Boston Area who are “limited in access to the BSO by distance or economics,” according to the BSO press release. True to the local spirit, ten chamber music concerts are scheduled throughout the year in various Massachusetts’ communities, while four additional performances take place at Northeastern University’s Fenway Center. Patrons can easily sign up for the free tickets on the BSO’s website. “It is wonderful for us, as musicians, to have the opportunity to play in a close chamber music setting,” says Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist, Bonnie Bewick.

This kickoff concert in Methuen is the first in not only the BSO Community Concert series, but also in the first 3 performances featuring a crossover program with BSO members, violinists Bonnie Bewick and Ala Jojatu, violist Rebekah Edewards, cellist Mihail Jojatu, Lawrence Wolfe playing double bass, and Bewick’s brother, guest guitarist Kenneth Bewick.

Courtesy BSO
Courtesy BSO

The program’s distinct combination of classical and folk music reaches everyone in the audience, regardless of musical background.  From Piazzolla’s “Tango Ballet,” arranged for string quintet, to traditional sets of Irish reels and jigs, all of the pieces show the classical musicians’ range and great interpretation of both genres.

Courtesy Frame Music
Courtesy Frame Music

As a BSO musician, Bewick is classically-trained; she also plays folk music with the group, Childsplay and is a member of the trio, Frame, alongside her brother and Wolfe. From her experience in both classical and folk, the pieces in the Community Concert formed nicely as the primes examples in both types of music. “I really like the element of surprise [when] an audience expects to hear a lot of classical music,” she says, “That’s always refreshing and fun for me when I present a crossover program to an audience.”

“Bach Reels in his Grave,” arranged by Bonnie Bewick and champion Irish fiddler, Sheila Falls, combines a Bach violin partita with Irish reels. It was certainly fitting that they performed this piece under the watchful eyes of a bust of J.S. Bach on the magnificent carved pipe organ in the Hall. Bewick and Jojatu play the parts with deftness and high musicianship, showing the similarities between both genres of music as they seamlessly blend together.

methuen-345x290
Courtesy BSO

In the Methuen Memorial Music Hall, the audience gets the same sense of being in Symphony Hall with the grand pipe organ behind the musicians as the concert opens with Piazzolla’s “Tango Ballet.” The musicians exhibit their musical talents within each piece throughout the program and unify perfectly to create harmonious sounds in the stately venue. Their bows draw rapidly across the instruments’ strings as the notes clearly resonate in different tones. The sets of jigs and reels are performance highlights, with Bewick even taking a few moments to stroll with her fiddle through the audience as they clap along to the lively tunes.

While the intimate setting provides music up close, it also gives the audience the ability to attend a live performance with BSO musicians outside of Boston—something that creates links to the Boston Symphony Orchestra community in a deeper, more personal way. “It’s great to have the audience close up, because it’s wonderful to speak and interact with [them] and to know that we’re not just performers up on stage—we’re entertainers, we’re reaching out, and connecting with the audience,” says Bewick.

Courtesy BSO

“Annoying Little Sister” certainly embodies the idea of connecting to the audience. The tango, composed by Bewick, begins with the musicians making rhythmic scratches, squeaks, taps, and thumps on their instruments. What begins as a cacophony of strange noises briefly turns into percussion moments before the elegant tango begins. Each musician playfully annoys each other with solo parts, evoking images for the audience to remember—or at least imagine—antics of an annoying sibling.

Before the final piece, Bewick says to the audience, “Thank you for supporting live music,”—an important aspect in this age of easily-accessible digital music and online video performances. No online content could replace the musicians’ vibrant energy as they finish with “Turka,” a Bewick-arranged rapid gypsy piece akin to “Orange Blossom Special.” The upbeat musical furor and the quick fingering and bowing certainly embody a runaway locomotive, even before the notes mimic the train whistle. With the audience’s resounding applause and standing ovation, the BSO Community Concerts certainly began on a high note.

Catch the same program on Oct 23, 2016 in Arlington and Nov 6, 2016 in Somerville. To see the full schedule of BSO community concerts, click here.
© Chelsea E. Dill 2016