The evening showed what an effort involving the whole community can accomplish.
GREENVILLE, Pa. -- What makes a good community orchestra? Enthusiasm, dedication to its success by the members of the community, support by the community and a good conductor.
All of these are present in Greenville and were evident Saturday night at the Passavant Memorial Center at Thiel College.
Maestro Michael Gelfand and the Greenville Symphony Orchestra were assisted by the chorus and soloists from the Greenville Area Community Theatre in a program of music mostly from various musical shows. The chorus was prepared by their own director, William Robinson. The theme of the evening was "A Valentine's Concert with the Music of Love."
There were three selections presented that could be considered classical. One was the "Wedding March" from Mendelssohn's incidental music for Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The others were "Liebeslied" and "Liebesfreud" by Fritz Kreisler.
Actually, the Mendelssohn selection could be considered a show tune since it was a part of incidental music, including settings of the songs, intended to be used at a performance of the play. The Kreisler selections have an unique history. When Kreisler wrote them as encores, he did not claim credit for them but presented them as undiscovered compositions by other composers.
The show tunes and medleys were very well done. Not all lend themselves well to such concert presentations since they are a part of the dramatic flow of the musical. The same problem can be seen in concert versions of Richard Wagner's music. It is to the great credit of the Greenville Orchestra, Maestro Gelfand and the community theater members that they were quite able to rise above those limitations.
Of course, some do tend to stand out, most notably those from "Fiddler on the Roof" and "West Side Story." "Fiddler on the Roof" uses many musical lines taken from Jewish folk traditions, and has the drive of centuries behind it. "West Side Story" is by a major symphonic composer and conductor.
And, of course, those from George Gershwin's musicals, Gershwin being one of the 20th century's major composers. We are fortunate that the performance scores and parts to his musicals were recently rediscovered stored in a New Jersey warehouse.
There is a tendency in this country to dismiss those Broadway musicals as just show tunes. It appears that European opera companies take them more seriously than we do. The Berlin State Opera has included "West Side Story" in its repertoire, and there is a recording with Kiri te Kanawa as Maria.
The program concluded with the encores "Love is Sweeping the Country" from Gershwin's "Of Thee I sing" and "76 Trombones" from Wilson's "The Music Man."
The evening was a very pleasant one, and showed what such an effort involving the whole community could accomplish. One wonders what this group could do if they could spend as much tome as professionals can on these concerts.
As a preliminary to the evenings performance, we were entertained by the Greenville High School Steel Drum Band directed by Eric Schrader. The performance included two talented vocal soloists, Jessica Huff, who sang "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and Holly Huff singing "Bailero." One Lisa Pfaff also did a solo on the drum set. This shows how much of a community effort went into the evening's entertainment.