By GWEN OREL
In October, the Montclair Orchestra will hold its first concert.
The group was formed last spring by Andre Weker of Montclair, the new group’s president, with David Chan, of Closter, its conductor.
Ticket sales are strong, Weker says, with a fair number of full-season tickets. The orchestra just started an online promotion campaign that asks various people, “Why is music important to you?” and posts videos of their responses on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other sites.
Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson is in the first person to be featured, and new video responses will come out every few days between now and the first concert on Oct. 22.
Not many New Jersey towns can boast of having a standing orchestra, but now Montclair can. Chan is the concert master, or top violinist, of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
It was Weker who came up with the concept and is responsible for the administrative side of the new group. Weker explains, “We have all this culture in town — music, culture, the art museum, the Montclair Film Festival — but not a standing orchestra. The light started to click for a number of people I spoke to, who said, ‘That’s incredible, how do we not have an orchestra?’ We have all sorts of programs with amazing music coming through, but not a standing orchestra.”
Weker points out that while there are musical groups that come through town, there aren’t so many orchestras as you might think. The New York Philharmonic used to come, but doesn’t now. Montclair State University has student orchestras, but there isn’t a regular visit by a professional group.
Grounding music in Montclair was his goal.
STARTING A NEW GROUP
Weker and his board received more than 100 applications, some from as far away as Belarus, when they advertised for a music director. They announced Chan as their pick in November 2016. In addition to his work at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chan is on the faculty of the Juilliard School and the Mannes School of Music.
Where Weker is responsible for the administrative end, Chan oversees the artistic development of the organization. “David is our Roderigo,” Weker said with a laugh, referring to the charismatic genius conductor of the Amazon Original series “Mozart in the Jungle.” Chan co-founded, in 2008, the
(“music and wine at Clos Veugeot”) festival in France, so has direct experience in programming events and attracting talent to perform.
The dividing line between administrative and artistic roles is blurry, Chan says: “If you don’t have a board or president who cares deeply about music, you’re going to always be fighting an uphill battle.” And a music director like himself needs to be involved with fundraising, attend parties, do interviews and be the face of the organization.
“Music is like a language, except maybe it’s more universal than any specific spoken language,” he says. It’s a language that many who don’t speak it now may find themselves wanting to learn.
As he programmed the concerts in The Montclair Orchestra’s first season, David Chan often found himself seeking the musical glue to hold a program together.
Finding the first two pieces in a program titled “Change” or “Contrast” was easy.
Filling out whole programs was more challenging.
“We wanted to present pieces that are acknowledged masterpieces but also have a great deal of variety,” Chan said. Rather than choosing music to suit a medium-sized orchestra, Chan decided to tailor the orchestra to the music. At its first season concert in October, the orchestra will have 80 players. The second concert will have 25, the third 15, the fourth 40, and the fifth 50, held at different venues around town.
THE MONTCLAIR ORCHESTRA SEASON
• “Operatic Connections,” TMO’s first concert, will be held on Oct. 22 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, 73 South Fullerton Ave. That concert, Chan said, is “connected to my past and present, working at the Met.” The program includes Verdi, Mozart and Mahler; soprano Ying Fang will sing.
• “Change” will be held on Dec. 10 at Immaculate Conception Church, 30 North Fullerton Ave. For this concert, which features Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” as well as Pärt’s “Fratres” and Strauss’ “Metamorphosen,” the orchestra is almost all strings, with one percussionist and one harp. Chan will perform on the violin.
• “Contrasts,” at the Leshowitz Hall, Cali School of Music at MSU, 1 Normal Ave., on Feb. 25, will have a small, 15-member chamber orchestra, which offers “freedom to explore the sharpest contrast possible.” The concert has been programmed around Wynton Marsalis’ “A Fiddler’s Tale,” and also includes work by Wagner and Shostakovich. For that concert, the “jagged, raucous, almost atonal” Shostakovich was the glue connecting the jazz/bluegrass Marsalis and the lyrical Wagner, Chan said.
• “Balletic Reinvention,” to be held at MSU’s Memorial Auditorium, 1 Normal Ave., on March 18, will feature music that audiences may recognize, but won’t quite, including a remake of the Bizet “Carmen Suite” by Shchedrin, Chan said. Vocal soloists from The Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Program will perform.
• In its final concert, “Tour of Colors,” to be held May 13 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, TMO will offer a tip of the hat to the Montclair Film Festival. Milhaud’s “Le boeuf sur le toit” was written as a film score, Chan said. The bill will also include work from Ravel, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart.
For full listing and ticket information, visit montclairorchestra.org/events.
Portions of this article appeared in previous editions of the Montclair Local.