Music fans packed the pews of the dramatic St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on Sunday night. A new orchestra, of nearly 80 musicians, tuned their instruments and the audience buzzed with anticipation, before silence enveloped the church, signaling the start of the concert. Then, with a forceful flick of his baton, Montclair Orchestra music director and Metropolitan Opera concertmaster David Chan, conducted Verdi’s La Forza del Destino, the dramatic opening notes also signaling a new era for Montclair’s music scene, one that was rich with orchestral excitement.
Following Verdi, a smaller ensemble performed Mozart’s graceful Symphony No. 29, its instrumental “singing” melodies serving as the perfect prelude to what would follow. Following intermission, the full orchestra returned for Mahler’s dramatic Symphony No. 4, reminiscent for its flutes and sleigh bells, and the stunning performance of soprano Ying Fang at the close of the concert. Fang emerged high above the orchestra in the church’s ornate carved pulpit to sing gloriously, in an amazing soprano solo finale to a magnificent concert and a magical evening.
The evening was the culmination of close to two years of dreams and hard work by Montclair Orchestra president Andre Weker.
“I was absolutely stunned by the turnout for the concert, and as an organization we were able to feed off the energy of the audience and give a heartfelt performance. As I have said many times in the past, only here in Montclair could this type of endeavor receive the type of support needed to succeed and thrive,” says Weker.
Musicians making up the Montclair Orchestra range from professionals, such as Innhyuck Cho, who is also principal clarinet for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; to conservatory students from Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music and Montclair State University’s John Cali School of Music; to professionals in other careers, such as Dr. Ken Bannerman, who played double bass at the concert, but by day is a cardiologist at Summit Medical Center. Together, the mix of musicians created a seamless performance, amazing when noting that the orchestra only had its first rehearsal a week prior to the event.
I felt privileged to be there,” says Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson of experiencing Sunday’s inaugural concert. “The music was at times soothing, at times invigorating, but always masterful. Of course, David is such a charismatic conductor!”
Jackson says he expects to hear “recordings of the Montclair Orchestra on QXR in short order”, adding “Bravo Andre! Bravo David! Bravo Montclair Orchestra!”
Following the enthusiastic reception of the inaugural concert, Weker is excited to push forward into Montclair Orchestra’s upcoming offerings — a special memorial concert on November 5th for Eric Singer of Congregation Shomrei Emunah, performing chamber music in a very intimate setting, and then the second season concert, Changes, at Immaculate Conception in December.
“Moving beyond the traditional classical repertoire, our audiences will be able to hear new and more modern orchestral music at these upcoming concerts, and we hope to bring new audiences in throughout the season,” says Weker.
Nov. 5: Eric Singer Memorial Concert at Congregation Shomrei Emunah. A special chamber performance by featuring Montclair Orchestra members.
Dec. 10: “Change” at Immaculate Conception Church. David Chan, violin. Pärt’s Fratres; R. Strauss’s Metamorphosen; Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.
Feb. 25: “Contrasts” at Leshowitz Hall at Cali School of Music at Montclair State University. Wagner’s Siegfried-Idyll; Shostakovich’s Two Pieces for String Octet; Wynton Marsalis’ A Fiddler’s Tale.
March 25: “Balletic Reinvention” at Memorial Auditorium at Montclair State University. Emily D’Angelo, mezzo-soprano; Ian Koziara, tenor; David Leigh, bass. Stravinsky’s Pulcinella and Shchedrin’s Carmen Suite.
May 13: “Tour of Colors” at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin; Tchaikovsky’s “Mozartiana” Suite; Mozart’s Serenata Notturna; Milhaud’s Le bœuf sur le toit.