The Cape Community Orchestra, under the direction of John P. Hagon, presents its spring concerts on Friday, May 10, at 7:30 PM at Our Lady of the Cape Parish Hall, 482 Stony Brook Road, Brewster, and Sunday, May 12, at 3 PM at the Yarmouth Senior Center, 528 Forest Road in South Yarmouth.
The program includes a variety of classical, popular, folk, and contemporary music, including Verdi’s Overture to Nabucco; “The Gliding Girl,” a tango by John Philip Sousa; and “Salute to Richard Rodgers, and more. Handel’s “Music from the Royal Fireworks” and Khachaturian’s “Gayane” ballet will be performed on Friday only, and Robert W. Smith’s Symphony No. 2, “The Oddessy,” will be performed on Sunday only.
Nabucco Overture, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) After the death of his wife and two children and the failure of his second opera, Verdi vowed never to write another opera. He was persuaded to read the libretto for Nabucco, though, and the words to one of the choruses resonated with him: “Va pensiero sull’ ali dorate (Go, my thought on gilded wings).”
Nabucco (1841) tells the Biblical story of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar’s mistreatment and eventual exile of the Jews. The Va pensiero theme, played by the oboe and clarinet with string pizzicato, expresses the longing of the Jews for their homeland.
The opera was an immediate hit, and Italian audiences identified with the plight of the captives as Italy was then under Austrian rule. Verdi went on to write 25 operas, and, at his funeral in 1901, 100,000 mourners paid their respect to him by spontaneously singing Va pensiero.
The Gliding Girl, John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) Known primarily for his big band marches, Sousa was also very accomplished at composing dance and popular music. He was inspired to “Gliding Girl” by his daughter Priscilla, who demonstrated the dance for him upon her return from Europe, where the tango was “all the rage.”
Music for the Royal Fireworks Overture, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) (Friday only) Music for the Royal Fireworks was composed for a lavish fireworks display in 1749 in London, to celebrate the Peace of Aix-la Chappelle, the 1748 treaty that ended the War of Austrian Succession. Considered one of Handel’s grandest works, the first performance, at King George II’s request, included only wind instruments and percussion. There were 24 oboes, 9 each of trumpets and horns (Handel had wanted 16 of each), 12 bassoons and a contrabassoon, serpent (early tuba), and three sets of timpani. Handel added strings for future performances.
Gayane Ballet, Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) (Friday only) Gayane (1939) tells of a patriotic young Armenian woman named Gayane living on a collective farm whose husband Giko, a lazy drunkard, turns out to be an anti-Communist spy who is ultimately brought to justice. Gayane divorces Giko and marries Kasakov. Their wedding is marked by the popular Sabre Dance. The ballet features numerous other classical and folk-inspired dances, as well as a poignant Adagio.
Symphony No. 2, The Odyssey, Robert W. Smith (1958- ) (Sunday only) The Odyssey was inspired by Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey. The symphony is unique in its use of intricate and imaginative percussion and wind effects. The first movement, “The Iliad (In the Tenth Year of the Trojan War)”, tells of the battle against the city of Troy and the Greeks’ “gift” of a large wooden horse, which is laboriously wheeled into the city, clanking and groaning. The Greeks emerge and burn down the city of Troy with crackling flames. In “The Isle of Calypso,” Odysseus is held captive by the goddess Calypso; waves wash ashore as time passes. A plaintive English horn solo reflects Odysseus’s longing to return to Penelope. In “The Winds of Poseidon,” Poseidon, the King of the Sea, summons powerful winds and waves. The haunting calls of the Sirens attempt lure sailors to their deaths.
American Folk Rhapsody No. 1, Clare Grundman (1913-1996) This medley (1948) includes tunes Grundman considered to be “all excellent songs of American folklore, and which have not received the attention they justly deserve.”
In “My Little Mohee,” a soldier expresses his love for an Indian maiden; “Shantyman’s Life” depicts the hardships of winter logging without access to liquor or female companionship; “Sourwood Mountain” is an Appalachian fiddle tune about chickens and a young love; and “Sweet Betsy from Pike” tells of pioneers, Sweet Betsy and her beloved Ike, who “swam the wide rivers and crossed the tall peaks” on their way to California.
Sinfonietta, Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) Rossini, who is best known for his 39 operas, wrote six string sonatas in the summer of 1804 when he was 12 years old. Written for two violins, cello, and string bass, these melodic and spirited works have since been adapted for orchestra. Each is written in three movements, in a fast-slow-fast sequence. The orchestra will play the third movements of Sonatas No. 4, 2, and 6, in that order, as arranged by Steven L. Rosenhaus.
A Salute to Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), arr. Ted Ricketts One of the most influential composers in American musical theater, Richard Rodgers wrote over 900 songs and 43 Broadway musicals. The medley opens with “Song of the High Seas,” an instrumental written for Victory at Sea, a 1952-53 documentary on World War II naval warfare. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration was Oklahoma! (1943), which broke many of the “rules” of musical theater and was a spectacular success, in part due to the energy and vitality of its title song.
The Sound of Music (1959) was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final collaboration and another huge hit. The title song is sung by the free-spirited and music-loving Maria. “Bewitched” is from Pal Joey (1940) by Rodgers and Hart. The song expresses a society matron’s reflections on Joey’s charms and flaws.
“The Carousel Waltz” is an instrumental that accompanies the opening pantomime in Carousel (1945) introducing the characters. The medley ends with “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” from the Sound of Music, sung by the Mother Abbess to inspire Maria to follow her dreams.
Admission is free. Donations are appreciated. A non-profit organization, Cape Community Orchestra Inc. is supported by private contributions and grants from local and regional institutions including the Cape Cod Melody Tent.
For more information, visit the orchestra’s website at capecommunityorchestra.org