Monday, March 25, 2013

The Creation of a CSO Fan

With Maestro Wada at
CSO Fundraiser
Two seasons ago, I attended my first performance of the CSO.   The performance featured “Carmina Burana” and was an unprecedented undertaking for the orchestra.   There was more than a bit of apprehension about whether Maestro Wada was being overly ambitious.  With over 100 singers on stage in addition to the musicians, opportunities for errors abounded.   That evening’s performance now goes down in CSO history as one of its most exciting and successful.  With one night of music, Maestro Wada created a new understanding—both for the audience and for the musicians--about what the CSO can do.   And the CSO had a new ardent fan--me!

Before Maestro Wada's final concert last Saturday night, I looked back at my blog about attending "Carmina Burana."   At that time, I associated classical music with sitting in a stuffy concert hall and hoping that I wouldn't embarrass myself by snoring during the performance.   But I had read about the upcoming concert in Florida Weekly, and it sounded intriguing.  When a friend invited me to join her for the show, I decided to give it a try.  It was truly the most remarkable night of music that I had ever experienced.    I was thrilled when the second encore at last week-end's performance was from "Carmina Burana."  Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised.   Over 100 choral singers had joined the CSO to perform the Choral (Finale) from Beethoven's Ninth, so why not take advantage of the chance to remind the audience of that wonderful evening of music?   For me, the music of "Carmina Burana" will always be the book-end around Maestro Wada's time on the podium.  

Shortly after that first performance, I had my first up close and personal experience with Francis.  He gave a talk at the Isles Yacht Club about the art of conducting.    I was immediately struck by the warmth of his personality and his love of music.  It was clear that his goal was to make the music fun and accessible for his audience.  And it was interesting to learn a bit about the history of conducting and how conductors use different batons for different types of performances.   Again, Francis' final concert triggered memories of this event.  The CSO has published a commemorative program of Francis' time with the CSO complete with a baton.  Before the concert began, Francis gave audience members a primer on how to use the baton and invited us to join him in conducting the CSO during part of the William Tell Overture.  I came close to putting out the eyes of my seatmates with my enthusiastic "conducting," but it was a blast and a reminder of Francis' continuing desire to make the concert experience fun for the audience. 

Over the last three seasons, the CSO has consistently put on top-notch performances, rising to the occasion again and again as Francis--and this season's guest conductors--challenged the musicians with their programming.   Francis has not been shy about taking risks with the music he has selected nor has he been reluctant to pursue guest artists whom he thought would be a good fit for the CSO, from prodigy pianist Umi Garrett (whom he saw perform on the Ellen DeGeneres show) to world-renowned baritone Gregg Baker (who amazingly lives in North Port).  And of course the audience will never forget the evening of Mantovani music that the CSO performed after Francis' years of work to get the rights.  

Maestro Wada has brought the joy, beauty, and--yes--fun of classical music to my life.   I will always be grateful to him for that.   And as he rides off into the sunset of retirement (on his motorcycle with his baton-carrying bear strapped on back), I wish him great happiness.  The CSO will survive and, hopefully, thrive with new maestro Raffaele Ponti at the helm.  But it will never be the same.  

1 comment:

  1. Nanette, I am applauding this post in between swigs of my morning coffee. You nailed my feelings about Saturday evening's performance by the CSO. It too was my first real concert and I'm still cloud hopping from the experience. Like you, I am sad that Maestro Wada is leaving us, but I'm oh so grateful for having met this amazing man and his music.

    My Best,
    Leah

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