DOWNEY - Imagine a magical evening in which the forces of the seasons are woven together with inspiring celebrity, an intriguing history, stellar performances and delightful showmanship rolled out with the warmth and hospitality of a hometown symphony and you might come close to the evening I spent at the Downey Symphony Orchestra's presentation entitled "Venice, Vivaldi, and the Red Violin" last Saturday. It was a magic carpet ride, fun and flawless, two words I no longer consider mutually exclusive.
The headliner was Elizabeth Pitcairn, world famous violinist with her nearly equally famous co-star, the venerable 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, which is known to the world simply as "The Red Violin." It inspired the movie by that name starring Samuel L. Jackson, which was shown earlier in the day and seen by over 75 people.
But what about the music, Brad? The music reminds me of the title of another film, which has no relation, but describes the orchestra and Ms. Pitcairn's performance perfectly: As Good As It Gets. She performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons with the poise of a dedicated natural. Her light and masterful approach to the instrument brought it alive in a way that interprets each season uniquely with its impactful and perennial qualities. The Downey Symphony musicians, under the direction of Sharon Lavery, blended perfectly with her virtuosity as only a true outstanding musical ensemble can do.
Added to the music, is the haunting pastoral poetry that accompanies The Four Seasons. These poems were interpreted by Anthony Moreno (in Italian) and Ms. Pitcairn's friend, television and film star, Sela Ward (in English). Between the seasons, while the poetry was being read, Ms. Pitcairn exited the stage, returning in a different and equally stunning gown which helped to set the scene for the interpretation of the next season. The gowns were tastefully selected and donated by Michael Kasher of LaFemme Fashion.
The first half included Edvard Grieg's Holberg Suite and Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, two delightful and beautiful works. Adding a further special dimension to the evening was an exhibition of artwork, "Rhapsody in Red," by 26 local artists in the lobby, including Jorge del Toro's brilliant ceramic sculpture of the Red Violin. The work continues on display for a month.
Following the performance, as the last note pealed from Ms. Pitcairn's Red Violin, there was a pause while the sold out crowd caught their collective breath and then quickly rose to give a standing ovation for four curtain calls. I considered it a response well deserved.
In the lobby, following the show, there was a new kind of excitement, as Ms. Pitcairn sat to autograph full color 8x10's and her CDs which were on sale. Upon request she would stand and provide a photo op for anyone who requested it. I got my autograph and picture taken with her. She asked if she could make it to someone. I said "Can you make it to Brad the Dad?" She smiled and said yes she would. As she signed her name, I realized that she is a woman of uncommon poise and charm in addition to her great talent.
The Downey Symphony Orchestra is going to be on my "GO TO" list from now on.
Brad Wethern is a writer and humorist.
********** Published: Feb. 6, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 43