The Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, John Yankee, music director. Photo: Eli Perrone
In celebration of its 10th anniversary, the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra will perform, with the Falmouth Chorale, Beethoven’s incomparable Symphony No. 9 in D Minor. There are two performances: Saturday, March 24, at 4 PM, and Sunday, March 25, at 3 PM at Falmouth Academy’s Simon Center for the Arts, 7 Highfield Drive in Falmouth.
“We wanted to present an epic musical work for our 10th anniversary,” said John Yankee, music director of the FCPO and artistic director of the Chorale, “and Beethoven’s Ninth meets that criteria. This grand and glorious symphony is certainly the most challenging musical adventure we have ever had.”
Considered by many to be Ludwig van Beethoven’s greatest achievement, and one of the most revered compositions in Western music, Symphony No. 9 is one of the most performed symphonies in the world, even though it requires a significantly augmented orchestra, four vocal skilled soloists, and a large chorus.
Remarkably, Beethoven was almost totally deaf when he completed the symphony and conducted (to the side of the actual conductor, Michael Umlauf) the first performance in 1824. It was the largest orchestra ever assembled by Beethoven, involving two professional orchestras and a select group of amateur musicians, as well as a large chorus.
“The Ninth is huge, often daunting, and even more amazing the deeper I dig into it,” said Yankee. “To prepare both an orchestra and a chorus is a rare opportunity—and a formidable challenge.”
For their part, the FCPO is adding about ten professional musicians for the concert, bringing the total number of instrumentalists to 45. It will still be a small orchestra by Ninth standards. “This is not a massive version,” said Yankee, “but something a little more intimate, ‘chamber-like’ in scale, without requiring forced volume, and that fits the 270-seat Simon Center well.”
The Falmouth Chorale will also be augmented to include more than 80 singers from the Upper Cape, including Chorale alumni, regional choral groups, theater companies, church choirs, private teachers and their students, and chorus programs. “A personal priority of mine,” said Yankee, “was to have representation from my other choruses, namely Falmouth Academy and the Cape Youth Chorale at Cape Conservatory.”
Four professional soloists: tenor Jason McStoots; baritone David Kravitz, soprano Deborah Selig, and contralto Stephanie Kacoyanis are featured.
Several features of the Ninth set it apart from other symphonies. Its sheer length is one. A typical symphony is about 30 to 50 minutes. The FCPO performance of the Ninth will run about an hour and 20 minutes. The fourth and final movement alone is the length of some shorter symphonies: it has been described as a symphony within a symphony. It is that fourth movement that really differentiates this symphony by featuring vocal soloists and a huge chorus of singers, driving home a powerful message.
“Ode to Joy,” the theme of the fourth movement, uses text written by German poet, playwright, and historian Friedrich Schiller and celebrates freedom and brotherhood, bringing an emotional conclusion to the symphony.
This is another distinctive feature of the Ninth, its sense of progression from the opening “cosmic hum,” the creation of a theme out of nothing in the first movement—evoking the creation of the world. The second movement scherzo follows, projecting humor and power, followed by the third, a slow and spiritual Adagio. The final movement is characterized by struggle and ultimate triumph. The whole symphony can be seen as a movement from darkness to light, a theme of the Enlightenment.
The Ninth has had a tremendous influence later composers in the Romantic period and beyond and has become an element of popular culture. For example, Leonard Bernstein conducted a version of the Symphony to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. It has been used at the Olympic Games. “Ode to Joy” has been adopted as the anthem of the European Union, and the symphony is played throughout Japan at the end of the year to celebrate the New Year.
All four vocal soloists have extensive experience on stage and in orchestra performances in Boston and throughout the US.
Award-winning tenor soloist Jason McStoots has been described as “the consummate artist, wielding not just a sweet tone, but also incredible technique and impeccable pronunciation” who “enlivens every production he’s in.”
Baritone David Kravitz has performed Beethoven’s Ninth with both the Cape Symphony and the New Bedford Symphony. Critics have praised his “large, multi-layered” and “sumptuously flexible” voice, his “power and eloquence,” and his “deep understanding of the text.”
Soprano Deborah Selig has been praised for her rich shimmering voice, her excellent artistic instincts, and her fine execution of the lyric soprano repertoire. Her voice has been described as “radiant.”
Critics have applauded contralto Stephanie Kacoyanis for her “vocal brilliance and comic timing,” “velvet voice,” and “spiritually rich performance.”
The FCPO was formed in 2008 by local musicians who wanted the opportunity to play together in an orchestra and in smaller chamber ensembles. Under the direction of John Yankee, the orchestra has grown significantly in its ability to handle more and more ambitious works. The orchestra offers full orchestra concerts in the spring and fall and musicales featuring small ensembles of orchestra members and friends two or more times a year.
Tickets are $25 for adults and $5 for students and are available online at www.falmouthchamberplayers.org. Limited tickets will be available at the door. Audience members are advised to buy tickets in advance as these performances are likely to sell out.
For more information about the concert and other activities of the Falmouth Chamber Players Orchestra, visit famouthchamberplayers.org