Written by Anna Ferraro
As a music teacher, pianist, free-lance writer, and volunteer for several organizations, my weekends always seem to be filled to capacity – after a workweek that was already filled beyond capacity. Saturday, October 8, was no exception. My day began before the sun. Review lesson plans for a class I had to teach that afternoon. Insert cup of hot tea. Then, over to Springfield to perform several pieces with a string ensemble at the opening session of a conference. Rush home, grab lunch, collect materials and get to class. Keep brain engaged for teaching. Smile. Look focused. Then, home from class, quick dinner, answer emails, make phone calls and out the door again … but this time – to one of my favorite places – Rammelkamp Chapel.
Stepping into the balcony while the musicians on stage warmed up, I breathed a sigh of relief. For the first time that day, my mind felt clear and relaxed. Nestling into the corner of a pew, I smiled as I spotted several musicians on the stage that I knew – two of my siblings in the violin section, my neighbor, the outstanding principal flautist of the symphony orchestra, and the new interim concertmaster – Kamen Petkov, from Springfield, Illinois.
Within moments, the lights dimmed. A hush fell over the room. There’s always an enchanting feeling in the air when the conductor mounts the stage – and tonight was no exception. With a stroke of his baton, Dr. Garrett Allman commanded the opening notes of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s 2016-2017 season to begin.
Chills crept up my spine as the orchestra journeyed through heights and depths of emotional expression through music. At moments, the sound was dramatically restrained; at other moments, dramatically unrestrained. Through the piece, the sounds of ringing brass, crashing cymbals, brilliant woodwinds and soaring strings lifted the roof.
And then … a hush, a calm. From the side of the orchestra, the enchanting sounds of a harp. In the room, I could feel a collective sense of tranquility. It was marvelous. Hanging on every note, I looked up at the rafters and sighed contentedly – no better way to end a busy day than this. If the concert would have stopped there, I would have been satisfied. But, it didn’t. There was more.
Following the Tchaikovsky overture, Ryan Kuster took the stage. A towering figure with a commanding stage presence, Kuster and his terrific bass-baritone voice penetrated the depths of every soul in the hall. Backed by the orchestra, he charmed the audience with arias by Gounod and Verdi. Then, following the intermission, Kuster’s renditions of “Bottom’s Dream” by Benjamin Britten and “Kiss Me, Kate” by Cole Porter demanded an enthusiastic standing ovation in the hall. He was obliged to encore.
As the last bits of applause died out and I reluctantly rose to take my leave, I realized my heart rate was slower than it had been all day. My mind felt orderly and optimistic. The melodies of the night filled me – and I felt satisfied. There, in Rammelkamp Chapel, as the auditorium emptied, I reveled in the seeming perfection of the moment. It was a magical, musical moment, set in a wonderful place. An evening of classical music truly was the perfect way to end a scattered day.
To see the full listing of upcoming concerts with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, or to purchase individual or season tickets, visit www.jaxsym.org.