Smithfield Chamber Orchestra Pops!

by Kevin T McEneaney
Last Saturday at Smithfield Church in Amenia, thirteen musicians under the direction of Matt Finley performed a one-hour concert conducted by Milt Lee, Conductor of the Skidmore College Concert Band. They opened with “Amparito Roca” (1925) by Jaime Texidor (1884-1957) from Barcelona. Texidor was one of the first modern composers in Spain, authoring over 500 works in numerous genres. This pleasant opening highlighted the flutes of Lynette Benner and Michelle Demko.

“Double Rainbow” (1984) by Antonio Carlos Jobim (1927-1994), that legendary Brazilian jazz master, provided a waltz where jazz pianist Larry Ham and Rob Murphy on violin added quirky angles to this festive romp. “Song Without Words” (1906) by Gustav Holst (1874-1932) plays on Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn’s dual piano series, orchestrating elements from the series. In this early composition (usually performed with a large orchestra), Kay Sutka on clarinet dominated the melody with finesse along with Matt Finley on flute.

“When She’s Gone” (2004) by Matt Finley was a meditative jazz lament on solitude that featured strong percussion from Jeff Siegel on drums and flugelhorn by Matt Finley. “The Typewriter” (1950) by Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) was an amusing romp with Denise Jordan Finley fast-clacking the keys of an old typewriter to a simple tune in the Church pulpit. The whack-ringing of the carriage return was a form of percussion that delivered comic relief.

“Small Town Girl” (1988) by Larry Carlton (1948-) portrayed the innocence and savvy in the big city. Lou Pappas on double bass and Larry Ham on keyboard dovetailed with Charles Grey on saxophone. This piece evoked plangent confusion with slight comic riffs. In contrast, “Firebird Suite Finale” (1911) presented sophistication descending into noticeable dissonance where Piotr Kargul (from Poland) on viola and Jean Vilkelis on cello instigated the concluding dissonant drive.

In “The Island” (1979) by Ivan Lins (1945-) we are treated to the fiction of becoming marooned on a desert island where love between two people achieve romantic consummation with ocean rhythms by Larry Ham on piano echoing small waves, while Steve Hubbert on trombone provided the nuance and ambiance of swelling, crashing waves as the passionate climax. Paired with this was “Meditation from the Opera Thais” (1894) by Jules Massenet (1842-1912). where the scene is a luxurious, giant bed where two lovers consummate their love in Egypt with religious eroticism, the work exhausting itself with a mute coda where the sweet viola of Piotr Kargul lingered in air.

“Under the Radar” (2005) was a guitar folk song by Denise Jordan Finley from one of her eight CDs, here orchestrated by her husband Matt Finley. In this premiere, the chamber orchestra sounded searching, but Matt Finley’s soprano sax finally rose to a thrilling climax.

“Concerto for Two Trumpets” (2013) by Eric Morales (1966-) provided a celebratory double climax with Milt Lee and Matt Finley taking on the whole orchestra as Charles Gray on sax and the flutes of Benner and Demko assisted by Steve Hubbert on trombone and Siegel on drums, Ham on piano, Pappas on double base, Kargul on viola, Sutka on clarinet, and Vilkelis on cello delivered a sound that sounded like twenty-four instruments, instead of fourteen!