Gerald Steichen capped off his fourth season as music director of Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra last Saturday, combining music, dance, and three dimensional art (glasses not included). The unifying theme of the event was music from the British Isles, but much of the excitement was generated by a local collaboration of the Ridgefield Guild of Artists.
After sitting in on RSO rehearsals, Justin Perlman was inspired to create sculptures expressing some of the motions and emotions of the musicians. Hanging on the wall behind the orchestra, violins seemed to move like a flock of birds, cellists merged into their instruments, and the conductor’s central role was seen as the head of a bird.
Adelka Polak, James Robey, and the contemporary dance ensemble from the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance brought Benjamin Britten’s “Courtly Dances” from “Gloriana” to life with inspired choreography. Five flowing dances magically transformed, from a formal procession turning into a queen popping up. Festive dancers were racing up and down the aisles in full frolic, resolving tensions with a flight of fancy. Very cool!
The RSO struck up the band with Sir William Walton’s “Crown Imperial March.” Was this a tribute to the late Delphine Marcus, a native Brit and Ridgefield resident who used this music as her theme on WMNR-FM? The orchestra was at full strength with triple winds, plenty of brass, and a huge percussion section.
Heavenly harp and flute solos opened an ultra-lush rendition of “Fantasia” on “Greensleeves” by Ralph Vaughn Williams, often associated with the holiday season. Any associations with winter quickly vanished with a beautiful version of “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring” by Frederick Delius. “The Walk to the Paradise Gardens,” also by Delius, developed an ethereal atmosphere with elements of grandeur using sensitive woodwinds.
Following intermission, this year’s “Golden Baton” conductor Susan Dumont-Bengston brought her style of body English to the podium for “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D Major” by Sir Edward Elgar. RSO sounded much better than the usual graduation music. The concert closed in grand style with Elgar’s “Enigma Variations,” a series of 14 musical portraits of the composer’s friends and family, poking a little fun at one and all.
After four seasons, Steichen still seems to have a few surprises up his sleeve. The listing of events lined up next year looks promising, with music from movies, opera, big bands, and more. For ticket information visit www.ridgefieldsymphony.org or call 203 438-3889.