• Music Review: MCO strings sing
    By Jim Lowe
     | November 18,2012

    Jim Lowe / Staff photo Paul Gambill conducts the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra at Friday’s concert.

    If the level that the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra is performing at now is typical for Vermont’s community orchestra movement, the state’s classical music scene is in great shape.

    Music Director Paul Gambill led the local orchestra, comprised largely of amateurs and music teachers, in a string program Friday at Montpelier High School’s Smilie Auditorium that sounded quite impressive. “Fall Fantasia” is scheduled to be repeated at 4 p.m. today at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall.

    Most exciting and musically rewarding was Edward Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro, a full-blooded Romantic work that was very demanding of its players, and these 27 delivered. Although there were rough parts, Gambill and the players managed its many moods and achieved a barely restrained passion that delivered the power of this masterpiece.

    The solo contingent in the work — violinists Cathy Metz and Willie Docto, violist Drusilla Macy and cellist Michael Close — delivered both the virtuosic and expressive passages effectively. This orchestra seems to improve with each performance.

    Still, perhaps best played — and certainly the most reassuring to audience and players alike — was the selection of five movements from Grieg’s beloved “Suite in Olden Style,” Opus 40. Here, Gambill and the MCO achieved a light lyricism delivered accurately and expressively. Metz and Macy were the able soloists — with some quite virtuosic parts.

    Friday’s performance was not note-perfect and there were certainly some rough passages. Interestingly, most of the really fast music was light and accurate, but the players weren’t entirely together in some of the slower and quieter passages.

    Least successful was Vaughan Williams’ complex Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Here, the orchestra is divided into three separate sections, and they didn’t always gel. Still, it was a spirited and passionate performance.

    A pleasant surprise was Smilie Auditorium. Although at a high school, it has excellent, very live acoustics and it’s even a quite attractive concert hall.

    Gambill and the MCO are helping raise the bar for Vermont’s community orchestras, delivering compelling and truly rewarding performances. Their hard work is paying off — for us.

    Montpelier Chamber Orchestra

    The Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Paul Gambill, will present “Fall Fantasia,” featuring music of Grieg, Elgar and Vaughan Williams, at 4 p.m. today at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall on Main Street. Tickets are $15, $12 for seniors, $10 for students, at the door. For information, call 595-0087, or go online to www.montpelierchamberorchestra.org.

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