March 22, 2019

Music, Memories and Commendation—Topanga Symphony’s 100th Concert

 

PHOTO BY TOM MITCHELL © 2015

Music, Memories and Commendation—Topanga Symphony’s 100th Concert

Viola soloist Pamela Goldsmith performing with the Topanga Symphony for it's 100th concert.

The 34th Season of the Topanga Symphony began with the presentation of a Commendation by Timothy Lippman, Senior Field Deputy for County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, in recognition of the 100th concert. Accepting on behalf of the Topanga Symphony was Arthur Mintz, the President of the Topanga Symphony.

Founding Board member and former flutist with the orchestra, Eric Lloyd Smith, addressed the audience.

PHOTO BY TOM MITCHELL © 2015

Music, Memories and Commendation—Topanga Symphony’s 100th Concert

From left, Topanga Symphony Board Member Jeanne Mitchell, Topanga Symphony Conductor Jerome Kessler and viola soloist Pamela Goldsmith at the Topanga Symphony's 100th concert.

Smith reminisced about past concerts that were frequently visited by a canyon dog who inevitably would walk onto the Community House floor during the performance, in front of the audience, and parade through as though he were checking in on who was invading his territory. The faithful old golden Lab no longer visits the Topanga Symphony concerts, but the musicians are still playing to a packed audience to hear this precious art form of enduring music.

PHOTO BY TOM MITCHELL © 2015

Music, Memories and Commendation—Topanga Symphony’s 100th Concert

From left, Topanga Symphony Board Member Jeanne Mitchell, Timothy Lippman, Senior Field Deputy for County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Arthur Mintz, President of the Topanga Symphony.

Music Director and Conductor Jerome Kessler then took the stage and introduced the audience to the five people in the room who had played with the Topanga Symphony in the first performance in August 1982. Two of the original orchestra members are current orchestra members, violinists Terry Gilbert and Eden Livingood.

Three original orchestra members were in the audience, flutists Eric Lloyd Wright and Susan Nissman, and current Topanga Symphony Board Member, Jeanne Mitchell, who played violin in the first concert and for 25 years thereafter.

The 100th performance began with the overture to “La Cenerentola” by Gioachino Rossini. In the concert program notes, “About the Music,” beautifully written and thoroughly researched by Karen Lu, she noted the popularity of Rossini during his life from 1792 to 1868: “He composed such irresistible melodies that often evoked irrepressible joie de vivre.” This “joy of life” is expressed musically in the piece beginning with the first soft luscious chord by the woodwind section building to a dramatic crescendo with pizzicato string accompaniment and harpist, Liesel Erman.

Gabriel Fauré’s soothing and lush “Pelleas et Melisande Suite, Op. 80,” featured emotional solos throughout from many of the orchestra’s talented principal musicians including Margreet Ray on oboe, Jim Stanley on clarinet, Julie Callahan Gross on French horn, Ruth Bruegger on violin and Billy Tobenkin on cello. This piece evokes a calm that is sought by many and experienced by those who listen to classical compositions like this. Viola soloist Pamela Goldsmith performed Alan Shulman’s “Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra.” The comfortable ease with which Goldsmith entered the stage presented a familiarity with the Topanga Symphony and audience that comes only from many hours spent together, having been a soloist many times with the orchestra.

PHOTO BY TOM MITCHELL © 2015

Music, Memories and Commendation—Topanga Symphony’s 100th Concert

Viola soloist Pamela Goldsmith performed Alan Shulman’s “Theme and Variations for Viola & Orchestra.”

Her appearance fills the room with her friendly, charismatic demeanor.

Her command of the stage and rich interpretation of the unique and colorful piece allowed the audience to feel the dramatic tone that envelops the voice of the beautiful viola she plays. The gorgeous dark brown wood on the Gasparo da Salo viola, circa 1580, has double purfling inlaid border and fleur de lys on the back with a carved head on the scroll. With authority and a truly inspiring performance, Goldsmith brought out all the distinctive qualities of the music and her rare instrument.

After intermission, Kessler spoke to the sadness he felt in announcing the passing of the Topanga Symphony former President Jack Smith. His wife Gaby and family members were present and were acknowledged for their many years of devotion to the orchestra. The “Brahms Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90” was performed in Smith’s honor. The bright, joyful, beautiful melody that begins the piece brought the full sound of the orchestra to its majestic strength. The second movement evokes love and passion bringing forward an encompassing expressiveness.

The haunting third movement is very familiar, leaving the listener with the question, “Where have I heard this beautiful transfixing melody before?” As the orchestra members worked their magic on the bold final movement, the strings moved their bows from tip to frog and the blaring brass had a chance to bring the breath up, into and out through the bell.

BECOME A FRIEND OF THE SYMPHONY

The next concert is scheduled for Sunday afternoon, November 8. Be a supporter, become a “Friend of the Topanga Symphony” by going to our newly updated website (topangasymphony.com) to donate and keep track of our performances. Save the date, September 20, for the Second Annual Topanga Symphony Fundraiser at Tuscali Mountain Inn in Topanga. (See related article, “Second Annual Topanga Symphony Fundraiser, September 20” on page 15.)

To keep the orchestra playing requires financial support and volunteers. Topanga is lucky to have this amazing orchestra in our town; it will only continue with community power behind every note played.