We’re still sporting cheshire grins from the Oakland East Bay Symphony concert on Friday evening, after experiencing three performances with sheer attitude. Maestro Michael Morgan knowingly smiled and made the unusual something that symphony goers could simply embrace.
Let’s start with Charles Ives’ Second Symphony (listen), written over 110 years ago. Our conductor gave advanced warning about the pastiche of tunes and abrupt ending, yet assured us that Ives behaved himself by sticking to one key. It was a real trip to hear the musicians making their way around and through this piece. While the music was beautiful, we were truly teased here.
After intermission, Rebeca Mauleon’s Suite Afro-Cubano was premiered to our audience. This music took us through Cuban settlement and history. We needed to toss away our preconceived notions of an orchestra, as instruments were drawn into the stories. By the time the orchestra members shouted “Mambo,” everyone in the theater seemed ready to celebrate.
That high energy fed right into the last piece, Duke Ellington’s Harlem Suite. We hadn’t really thought of Duke in this larger venue, complete with familiar crooning brass. Who needs a big band when you can one-up with a full orchestra instead? Very nice.
We hope this weekend’s performance reflects the present and future of symphony orchestras. In that spirit, our East Bay performers are still putting out their hats and asking for donations – and they deserve our support.