The Montclair Orchestra
Sunday, Dec. 10, 5 p.m.
Church of the Immaculate Conception,
3o North Fullerton Ave.
‘Fratres’ by Arvo Pärt
‘Metamorphosen’by Richard Strauss
‘The Four Seasons’by Antonio Vivaldi
By GWEN OREL
Against the backdrop of a Christmas tree, Conductor David Chan urged the string players who will perform in the Montclair Orchestra’s concert on Sunday to be rigorous with rhythm and separation. The acoustics in the basement of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, where they rehearsed on Friday, were clearer than it would be upstairs where the concert will be held, Chan said.
He sang lines of the music to demonstrate the dynamics and tempo. It was the first time the musicians had met to rehearse.
At a table off to the side, Montclair Orchestra’s President and Chairman Andre Weker worked on a laptop, making the program. “I do it all,” Weker said with a laugh.
Most of the musicians dressed casually, but Montclair violinist Rebecca Harris-Lee was dressed up: she’d performed that day.
Weker had often bumped into Harris-Lee while walking his dog.
Then one day he heard she was a violinist.
“People didn’t know me as a violinist. They knew me as a mom,” Harris-Lee said with a laugh during a break in rehearsal. “I remember thinking, how’s this going to work?” Maybe it would be a community orchestra, semiprofessional.
Then came the rehearsal: “I was shocked. My mouth dropped open.”
The quality was that good. She was surrounded by students from Julliard. Musicians from
the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.
The Montclair Orchestra held its first concert in October. The second one, titled “Change,” is made up of 24 string players, plus percussion and harpsichord.
“I put together programs I like musically, and then a theme emerges,” Chan said. He wanted to perform Richard Strauss’ 1945 work “Metamorphosen,” which unusually includes a different part for each musician. Chan, the concertmaster of the MET orchestra, asked fellow orchestra player, cellist Joel Noyes, how he felt about putting “Metamorphosen” on the same bill with Antonio Vivaldi’s 1725 work “The Four Seasons.”
Noyes answered that they both had a common element of change, Chan said.
“Once that was in my head, I had to struggle to find a third piece to fit that. With Strauss, you have the devastation of World War II, as well as the historical backdrop.
“Vivaldi is the change of the season.”
Chan chose the 1983 work “Fratres,” by Arvo Pärt. The Danish composer is “minimalist,” Chan said. The music has subtle change. “Pärt was a devoutly religious man. It’s a very eternal point of view.”
Noyes is the principal cellist in the Montclair Orchestra, and commutes from Manhattan to participate. “It’s fun to be part of a new emerging orchestra, embraced by the community around it,” he said.
Chan will be the soloist in the Vivaldi, a split between conducting and performing that adds “gray hairs,” Weker teased.
The concert is selling well. The last one sold out, Weker said. The coverage and response from Montclair “has given a lot of encouragement, at a time like this when there is so much discussion about what is going on in the arts.”
“People were turned away,” Harris-Lee said of the first concert. “Seeing people from my town, and how elated they were… I am so lucky to be part of this. I can’t believe it.”