Windham Orchestra presents Beethoven and Sibelius Young musicians get the full orchestra experience

BRATTLEBORO — If you are expecting the predictable in Windham Orchestra's concerts, "Beethoven & Sibelius" on March 24 and 26. Don't. Be prepared instead for the unexpected. That is the personal goal of the orchestra's Music Director Hugh Keelan, or more accurately, to give the audiences at the weekend performances, and the students in Thursday's Music in the Schools program a "blow you away experience." Keelan said the program is a successful and wonderful occasion once a year engaging over 700 kids as part of the Brattleboro Music Center's Music in the Schools, giving hundreds of school-age children an opportunity to experience and enjoy a full symphony orchestra with a performance designed especially for them. It is successful due to the collaboration between the area school's music departments, Brattleboro Music Center, and the Windham Orchestra, by leaving an open door for the different organizations to co-create the program, drawing from feedback, and asking what do they want THEIR students to take away from the experience. The key is to look for a participatory environment to engage students. The goal is for the students to have an awesome experience not necessarily educational since teachers already do that. The performance on Thursday, March 23, just for students creates a bond between the young musicians, the audience, and the teachers.

Then on the weekend the Windham Orchestra takes that program to the public. Each year, the winner of the Windham Orchestra Concerto Competition is given the opportunity to play with the full orchestra in this event. This year's winner, Jayna Leach from Keene, N.H. will play a solo violin concerto — a substantial single movement by Sibelius, Finland's most celebrated composer. Keelan noted, "It is easy to associate Sibelius' music with a very particular northern, or Nordic, aesthetic of beauty, embracing darkness, introspection and cold. The last Sibelius we played portrayed a wild, exhausting storm. Now, as we embark on our rehearsals, I am struck by the warm, sunny richness (Mediterranean even!) of major passages of the violin concerto."

He added, "Jayna Leach is going to knock people sideways. She's somebody that everybody in the audience can identify with."

According to Keelan in a press release from Windham Orchestra, "Symphony No. 4" first in the program," is considered one of the good-humored even-numbered symphonies of Beethoven, yet this composer whom we never outgrow toys with us wickedly in the symphony's slow introduction: dark, snaking melodies, groaning bass sonorities, doubt after doubt expressed with no resolution offered, not a glimpse of a major chord...and in a flash, four movements emerge exploring worlds of untrammeled joy and freedom. Personally, I hear brilliance and romping playfulness in the first movement (once the gloomy introduction is brushed aside); serenity and generous acceptance in the slow movement; the capacity to laugh without mockery in the Scherzo; and self-acceptance, an ease with the whole world, and everything in it, in the finale. Those are my words and interpretations, and I look forward to taking myself by surprise in our rehearsals and performances together, and discover vistas and details I have never before encountered.".

Immediately following the intermission is Eroica Symphony. In a memoir of Ferdinand Ries in 1804, visiting Beethoven: "In writing this symphony Beethoven had been thinking of Buonaparte, but Buonaparte while he was First Consul. At that time Beethoven had the highest esteem for him and compared him to the greatest consuls of ancient Rome. Not only I, but many of Beethoven s closer friends, saw this symphony on his table, beautifully copied in manuscript, with the word "Buonaparte" inscribed at the very top of the title-page and "Luigi van Beethoven" at the very bottom. ... I was the first to tell him the news that Buonaparte had declared himself Emperor, whereupon he broke into a rage and exclaimed, 'So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!' Beethoven went to the table, seized the top of the title-page, tore it in half and threw it on the floor. The page had to be re-copied and it was only now that the symphony received the title "Sinfonia eroica."

Only one French horn is added to a standard classical orchestra, and awestruck, we enter a world of sonic richness and complexity un-inferrable from CPE Bach, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven's two preceding symphonies.

Two declamatory chords open the vast first movement, miraculously these two moments of fission cause an expansion of formal engagement — time — that is without precedent. The movement is not just long, it has the quality of traveling without knowing where borders might be; we dwell for noticeable periods in realms greatly distant from our starting point of those two chords. Known experiences offer no stability or insight.

Keelan always has in mind also how to create interest with those who feel that they don't like classical music. First, by getting them in the door with enticing posters, and second, by finding ways to reconfigure the experience for them so that they hear it with different ears, giving them permission to like it, while at the same time maintaining the passion of the public that already loves the genre. Everyone has similar experiences so engaging all by making them feel the experience is personalized for them provides a relationship between them and the musicians in a way that they were not expecting. Everyone leaves very happy.

Performances of "Beethoven & Sibelius" take place on Friday, March 24, 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Putney School, 418 Houghton Brook Road, Putney; and on Sunday, March 26 at 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Latchis Theatre, 50 Main St., Brattleboro. Tickets are $5 to $50 (name your price) at or


Symphony No. 4 in Bb opus 60 (1806)          Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I. Adagio-Allegro vivace

II. Adagio

III. Allegro molto e vivace-Trio. Un poco meno allegro-Tempo I- Un poco meno allegro

IV. Allegro ma non troppo

Concerto in d minor for Violin and Orchestra opus 47 (1905) Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

I. Allegro moderato

Jayna Leach, violin. Winner of Windham Orchestra Concerto Competition


Symphony No. 3 in Eb Sinfonia Eroica (1804)     Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

I. Allegro con brio

II. Marcia funebre. Adagio assai

III. Scherzo. Allegro vivace. Trio

IV. Finale. Allegro molto. Poco andante. Presto

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311 ext. 261


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