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Juno Orchestra: Family Connections

This one was a once a lifetime experience. I performed a brand new concerto by my dad back home in Brattleboro VT. My worlds came together, playing with a top notch chamber orchestra in my hometown for an audience of people who I mostly have known since childhood, conducted by my first cello teacher, Zon Eastes, improvising a cadenza using the language of Hindustani music that I have immersed myself in. I am so grateful.


J/J by Stan Charkey (newly commissioned) Sinfonia from Cantata 174 by J.S. Bach Divertimento in F Major, K. 138 by W.A. Mozart Serenade for Strings, Op. 20 by Edward Elgar Symphony No. 46 in B Major by Franz Joseph Hay

Juno Orchestra entered its third season with an exploration entitled “Family Connections.” Alongside works rising out of well-known musical households (like Bach and Mozart), Juno introduced a newly commissioned work by local composer Stan Charkey.

‘J/J’, for cello and string orchestra, Stan Charkey, a long-time professor of music at Marlboro College, is a recipient of awards for composition from the Renée B. Fisher Foundation and Vermont Music Teachers Association as well as fellowships at the Ragdale Arts Foundation and the Kimmel-Harding Center For the Arts. His compositions include commissions for a variety of ensembles and musicians, including the Apple Hill Chamber Players, cellist Paul Cohen, pianists Luis Batlle and Michael Arnowitt and violist Michael Tree.

His new work blends western and Indian elements in quite a striking way. Part Dvořák, part improvisation, the piece is built on principles of harmonic balance that allow for remarkable flexibility within a unified context. The work is entirely accessible. The central portion of the piece calls for an extended improvised cadenza inspired by Indian ragas.

In addition, Juno’s upcoming program included an instrumental Sinfonia by J.S. Bach, this one from Cantata 174. In a singularly superhuman, six-year outburst, Johann Sebastian Bach composed and produced a new cantata every Sunday. Every single Sunday! And this was just one of a number of duties he had while music director at St. Thomas in Leipzig. On some Sundays, his choir got a break from performance, so Bach would supply an orchestral piece to open a cantata. And many times, Bach reworked earlier compositions to fit the occasion.

Juno likewise visited the Mozart family by way of a work from 16-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus, his delightful Divertimento in F Major, K. 138. There is evidence that young Wolfgang penned three works (Juno performs the third of the set) as his first attempts at ‘publishable’ string quartets, but his helicopter father selected the moniker ‘Divertimenti’ instead. Whatever, dad. The three works are brief, delightful, and expressive.

Edward Elgar, English composer, grew up in an arts-favorable family. His father was a piano tuner and his mother saw to her children’s musical studies–Elgar was the fourth of seven children. He composed the Serenade while in his mid-30s. Its intimacy and brevity are positively charming, while its depth and directness characterize the mature Elgar.

Continuing with Juno’s exploration of the middle Haydn symphonies (those composed about the same times as the American Revolution), Juno featured Symphony No. 46 in B Major. Whenever one talks about these Sturm und Drang symphonies, one repeats words like unexpected, cascading, quirky, bedazzling. Haydn surely had a sturdy set of compositional tools that allowed him remarkable, but always recognizable freedom to express his wit, his imagination, and his unwavering respect for his discipline. Symphony No. 46 is no exception.

Juno Orchestra is in residence at the Brattleboro Music Center. These concerts are supported in part by grants from the Crosby Gannett and Dunham Mason Funds at the Vermont Community Foundation.

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