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A Musical Halloween

New Century Chamber Orchestra

Reviewed by Hauntmistress: 10/10/2003



Stuckenbruck on musical saw

Bennion Feeney and Swann (Center)

I learned the meaning of the word "talent" the hard way - I tried to play a musical instrument.  I tried the piano, violin, guitar, flute, you name it.  With each new instrument I brought home, my parents considered giving me up for adoption.  I consider myself to be a pretty smart person, but for the life of me, I could not grasp playing a musical instrument.  Then it dawned on me: I was born without musical talent (at least that's what I comforted myself with...). 

Lucky for us, there are people that do posses great musical talent and the New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO) is chock full of them!  This October NCCO is presenting A Musical Halloween and it's not to be missed!

Led by music director Krista Bennion Feeney, the NCCO's A Musical Halloween features soloists Dale Stuckenbruck on the musical saw and Jeffrey Swann on piano.  

The musical selections (featuring works from Mendelssohn, Purcell, Lizst, Price, and others) are superb, as is their placement in the program.  There is definitely a Fall/Halloween feel to the music and if there was a flaw to NCCO's performance when we attended, I didn't detect it.  

The orchestra members looked like they were really enjoying playing the music - standing up, swaying, and really giving the audience a visual as well as aural show.  Their passion for the music was palpable and it really added to my enjoyment of the evening.  The orchestra has a big sound even though it is a smaller orchestra (I came up with this before reading that this is one of their tag lines, proving there sometimes is truth in advertising!).

The soloists were fascinating to watch.  The audience got a brief and humorous lesson in the musical saw from Stuckenbruck before he and the orchestra played Divination by Mirrors by Michael Levine.  The musical saw is the perfect instrument for Halloween!  The tones and sounds it makes can be creepy and made Divination by Mirrors a spooky piece! 

And then there was Swann.  Before I realized I had no musical talent, I dreamed of going to The Julliard School in New York.  I read up on the admission process and it included actually being able to play music (go figure), so I set my sites on another college.  But Swann went to Julliard and what a great testament to the musical geniuses they churn out!  During Mephisto Waltz #1 by Lizst, Swann's fingers were flying over the piano keys so fast they were a blur.  I found myself sitting forward in my seat so as not to miss a note (he didn't miss one either!).  He played with passion and warmth and the audience really responded to him.  

While we were gathering our things to leave the concert, we heard a number of people commenting on how great the show was, saying, "amazing", "fabulous", "the embodiment of Halloween", and "the musical saw was my favorite!".  And the most humorous comment: "Any other concert I would have slept through. This was absolutely fabulous!" 

In addition to A Musical Halloween, NCCO is presenting The Devil's Trill at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco on Oct. 31, and if A Musical Halloween is any indication, it should be a great show!

Have you seen the New City Chamber Orchestra? Agree with us? Or just want everyone to know your thoughts? Then start a discussion in our forums!

When 2003 - Oct. 9, 8 pm: Berkeley; Oct. 10, 8 pm: Palo Alto; Oct. 11, 8 pm: San Francisco; Oct. 12, 5 pm: San Rafael.  Also, The Devil's Trill:  Oct. 31, San Francisco ($29/$20)
Admission $39/$28
Contact http://www.ncco.org/

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