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Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
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.