Sunday at Symphony


Emily Winston, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Ward Melville’s Chamber Orchestra, in conjunction with wind, brass, and percussion players from the Ward Melville Wind Ensemble, entertained the Three Village Community at the second annual “Sunday at Symphony” concert on March 22. The concert included musical selections from movies such as Star Wars, Batman, and Disney’s Frozen and from the PBS series Downtown Abbey. Also featured were musical selections from Bruno Mars and Katy Perry. Beethoven’s renowned first movement of his Fifth Symphony concluded the concert. Generous gifts were raffled off, including a child-sized violin and a bass ensemble. Raffle winners consisted of audience members, children, and musicians from onstage.

Amidst the repertoire, the orchestra inserted highlights from Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, A Symphonic Tale for Children. Senior violinist Devin Cowan guest conducted while junior violinist Martin Vaillancourt creatively narrated the story. Peter and the Wolf calls for a smaller orchestra, with one to two players per part in the woodwind section. Each character is represented by an instrument or section of the orchestra: the bird is played by the flute, the duck by the oboe, the cat by the clarinet, the wolf by the French horns, the grandfather by the bassoons, Peter by the string section (violin, viola, cello, bass), and the hunters by the percussion section (timpani and bass drum play gunshots).

This symphony tells the story of a boy, Peter, who lives with his grandfather in a meadow clearing. In the story, the duck and bird converse under the watchful eye of a cat. Peter leaves the gate open and a wolf wanders into the yard. The wolf swallows the duck, but ultimately Peter uses his wits and the help of the bird to trap the wolf. Hunters, who had been on the trail of the wolf, appear and Peter convinces them to bring the wolf to a zoo. A finale accompanies the procession. The music from Peter and the Wolf became a household familiarity in the mid-1940s when Disney released it as a movie. A slightly altered edition was issued for home video release in the 1990s. Famous narrators for the story have included First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Conductor Leonard Bernstein, Singers David Bowie and Sting, violinist Itzhak Perlman, actors Sophia Loren, Ben Kingsley, and Patrick Stewart, and world leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton.

Including Peter and the Wolf in Sunday’s concert was a tremendous feat. Rehearsal time was limited and the piece needed to be abridged to comply with time restrictions. A handful of professional musicians assisted by covering some of the character solos. The experience of playing with a student narrator and a student conductor will be a memorable one for the musicians. The audience appreciated the display of musical talent by the Ward Melville Chamber Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. Both the performance of the music and the diversity of the repertoire left the audience eager for more.