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Symphony
SO CO PHIL BON VOYAGE CONCERT AN ODYSSEY OF CONTRASTING SOUND
by Terry McNeill
Friday, June 15, 2018
In a splashy bon voyage concert June 15 the Sonoma County Philharmonic Orchestra launched its June 17-25 Costa Rica tour, performing gratis in Santa Rosa’s Jackson Theater the repertoire for tour concerts in San José, Costa Rica’s capital, and in surrounding towns. Conductor Norman Gamboa pr...
Chamber
COMMANDING CHOPIN AND DEBUSSY IN SLV RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 06, 2018
Concerts at the classy Spring Lake Village Retirement Home in Santa Rosa have admission limited to residents and a few guests, but the chance to hear a first cabin North Bay pianist June 6 brought a Classical Sonoma reviewer into the audience of 100. The crowd numbers were unusually low due to a ba...
Recital
MUSICAL ALCHEMY INSIDE A HIDDEN GEM
by Kayleen Asbo
Friday, May 25, 2018
The Petaluma Historical Library and Museum is a hidden gem of Sonoma County, a gracious building that is one of Sonoma County’s loveliest venues for chamber music concerts, with a fine period piano particularly suited to Romantic music.  Of the surprisingly large array of festivities there, one of t...
Chamber
FINAL VOM MUSICIANS CONCERT IN SCHROEDER A SCHUBERT DELIGHT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It's rare to have the opportunity to compare in a short period two performances of the same major Schubert work, in this case the great B Flat Piano Trio, D. 898. The chance came May 12 when the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians played it in Schroeder, just over a month since the Hall’s residen...
Symphony
FERRANDIS BIDS ADIEU WITH MAHLER’S FINAL SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 06, 2018
Sonoma State students in graduation robes posed for pictures and hugged each other at the university’s stone gates on Sunday afternoon, mirroring the prolonged farewells within the university’s Green Music Center, where Bruno Ferrandis bid adieu to the Santa Rosa Symphony after a dozen years at the ...
Symphony
SONIC SPLENDOR AT MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Abby Wasserman
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
The Marin Symphony Orchestra ended the current season with a flourish, interpreting big and small works by Richard Strauss and Stravinsky. Strauss and Stravinsky were contemporaries for 40 years, but inhabited different worlds. Both composers were affected by cataclysmic changes and war, and musical...
Symphony
ORGAN SYMPHONY IN SSU ORCHESTRA CONCERT IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 29, 2018
Though Classical Sonoma seldom reviews student concerts, as ample North Coast concerts keep the staff of 11 reviewers busy. But the chance to hear the Sonoma State University Orchestra tackle St. Saëns’ majestic Organ Symphony April 29 was a rare opportunity and not easily to be missed. Avec l’...
Recital
HEAVENLY SCHUBERT AND DEMONIC CHOPIN
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 21, 2018
One of the anomalies in the long ago “Golden Era” of romantic pianism (about 1905 to 1940) is that the virtuoso giants of the time didn’t play Schubert. It took the German pianist Artur Schnabel to bring the beauties of Schuber’s work to the public’s attention, and now they seem to be on almost ever...
Symphony
SPLENDID JUPITER AND ZOOMING CONCERTO AT VALLEJO SYMPHONY SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 15, 2018
Over the past two years the Vallejo Symphony has made big changes, moving from a stark middle school auditorium to the snazzy remodeled 1911-era downtown Empress Theater, and engaging Marc Taddei as its seventh conductor. April 15 was the season’s final concert of the 86th season. In a programmin...
Chamber
VIRTUOSO CELLO AND GUITAR TRANSCRIPTIONS AT RAC SEBASTOPOL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 14, 2018
Listeners and yes even music critics usually prepare for a concert with research, checking recorded performances, looking at artist biographies and even reviewing sheet music. This was a difficult task for the April 14 Redwood Arts Council concert in Sebastopol’s Community Church, as the performers...
CHORAL AND VOCAL REVIEW
Green Music Center / Sunday, September 30, 2012
Sunrise Concert. Sonoma State University Chorus and Chamber Singers; Santa Rosa Children's Chorus; Cantiamo Sonoma; Maria Carillo High School Chamber Singers; Sunrise Chamber Players; Jeff Langley, piano

Composer Jeff Langley

A POPULAR INAUGURATION; THE DELIGHTFUL SUNRISE CONCERT AT WEILL HALL

by Phillip Beard
Sunday, September 30, 2012

It’s hard to imagine a more fitting setting than the Sept. 30 Sunrise Concert for the popular – as opposed to “elite” – inauguration of the palatial, pre-legendary Weill Hall in the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. You know something special is going on when you fill a 1,400-seat hall at 7 a.m., most of those 1,400 still rubbing the sleep from their eyes.

The elite inauguration, the one with all the tux-and-gown pooh-bahs and the solitary rock star, had of course taken place the previous evening, hugely impressive with its pomp and circumstance and speeches and its stunning recital by the world’s current leading pianist Lang Lang . This Sunrise Concert, by contrast, was entirely home-grown and consciously community-oriented: a choral program created by SSU’s own composer Jeff Langley and poet/drama coach Amanda McTigue, performed by a phalanx of local choruses and soloists and a 14-piece instrumental ensemble, the Sunrise Players, drawn primarily from the Santa Rosa Symphony. The conductor was SSU choral director Jenny Bent.

Host Lynne Morrow, another SSU music faculty fixture, welcomed the crowd invitingly and inclusively, delivering her own paean to the beautiful shared space, “an instrument that tunes us,” and rehearsing the audience for its sing-along role in the ode to music that would end the concert.

Then we were launched gently, first silently (what a magic moment of shared introspection!) then with brassy fanfare into a marvelous eight-song mélange of full-choir, small-choir, solo-voice, dual-voice, and instrumental numbers sometimes merging one into the other, sometimes ending on glorious full chords. They ran the musical gamut from mild harmonic edginess (in “Fanfare: Make Music”) to hymn-like strophic loveliness (“The Loving Cup”), to pop-tune sing-along good vibes (“Every Little Minute”). The texts, each a masterly poem in its own right, roamed from the sundry roles that music plays in our lives to the love that binds us together, whether intimately (“Love Is Our Lot”) or communally (“The Loving Cup” and “Every Little Minute”).

This triple focus, the interweaving of three thematic elements – love, music, community – provided the backdrop for myriad glistening moments. My favorites included soprano Carol Menke’s several stellar solos; the velvet trio offered by Jeff Langley at the piano, soprano Jenni Samuelson, and the amazing countertenor Chris Fritzsche, serendipitously blessed by the dawn sun rising over the hills to the east at the very moment of the vocal line “It’s the angle of the light, It’s the fading of the hills”.

In the Sunrise Players both Kathleen Reynolds’ flute and Roy Zajac’s clarinet playing stood out with warm resonance, along with the descant purity of the Santa Rosa Children’s Chorus. The larger ensemble, made up of the Maria Carrillo High School Chamber Singers, the SSU Symphonic Chorus, Cantiamo Sonoma, and the aforementioned Children’s Chorus, sang with thundering richness.

A star performer throughout the concert was the hall itself and its acoustic spectrum, ranging from pianissimo delicacy and crispness to full-on Mahlerian boom.

A marvelous new facility has opened at SSU, acoustically arguably among the greatest in the country. It was memorably showcased in this Sunrise Concert, and the program was written by local artists and performed by a well-rehearsed and well-conducted ensemble of local instrumental and vocal talent. The transparent intent of the concert's producers and performers was to contribute to the establishment of a community sense of ownership of the shared architectural and cultural space. They succeeded beautifully.