Review: “Classical Gas”

[by Phyllis Shaikun]

That summertime feeling came a little early for those attending the Jewish Community Center Orchestra’s annual 4th of July Concert on June 27 – and it was not a moment too soon. Despite the steamy hot auditorium, the audience of about 200 settled back, fanned themselves with folded programs and got ready to enjoy a concert that did not disappoint.

From a rousing National Anthem that got people to their feet to a magnificent closing medley from The Empire Strikes Back, the orchestra proved once again why it has earned and deserves our support.

The program began with the aptly dubbed Music for the Royal Fireworks, in which Handel’s Adagio and Allegro movements moved from fantasy to a marching beat that echoed colonial soldiers marching for the cause. From there, Conductor Aaron Boaz turned to Morton Gould’s American Salute, built around the ever-popular “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again.” Toe-tapping and foot-stomping listeners bobbed their heads to the familiar patriotic score. The horn section outdid itself and the drumbeat was thundering.

The Sonata for Viola (subtitled Four Hands and Harpsichord) by P.D.Q. Bach featured Lisa Weaver and Chrissy Givan on the viola – both playing at the same time on the same instrument. It was quite a feat and earned a round of applause. Not satisfied with that, the two turned to the violin and played that together as well – with one wielding a traditional bow while the other deftly glided a hand-held household saw across the strings! It was worth the price of admission just to see it.

A summer concert and Duke Ellington seem to go together and did so this time with the Duke’s “Can’t Get Along Without You Anymore” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing If You Ain’t Got That Swing.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

The second half featured music from the movie Forrest Gump, and the number “Classical Gas” performed by young guitarist John Arstingstall. Highlights from Wicked had a spectacular ending, and the fun was up to timber pitch with an “International Dixieland Jamboree” built around “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey.” Music from Porgy and Bess was included too along with a neat arrangement of “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

What a thoroughly satisfying evening! “Please tell your friends they are an extraordinary orchestra,” said a modest Boaz in acknowledging members of his troupe. He is right; they are a hidden treasure in our community. For a modest ticket price, you can sit in casual clothes and be entertained by a first class orchestra bent on pleasing its public. Come and enjoy their next concert – you’ll be glad you did.

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