MSO concert gives audience taste of the conventional, unconventional

By K.S. Morrison - Special to the Telegraph

A Renaissance man is someone who has expertise in several fields.
So what would you call a woman who sings, plays multiple instruments,
composes and, yes, even dances? Definitely a curiosity and maybe even
a one-woman band.

The featured treat (and trick) at Saturday night's Macon Symphony
Orchestra concert was just such a woman. Janice Martin, 
soprano/violinist/pianist/dancer/arranger, performed her
"Paganinimania Concerto" based on Nicolo Paganini's 24th Caprice.
Martin's orchestration of this work originally for solo violin added
elements of jazz, Celtic, gypsy and even boogie-woogie-style music.

Wonderfully inventive as they were, I would have preferred half as
many variations with twice as much development of each style in order
to provide more continuity. And, although her violin and piano
variations were admirably done, it was distracting to have the soloist
exchanging instruments mid-piece as if she were a child prodigy showing
off for peers. Her gymnastics/dance routine while singing Gershwin's
"Summertime" and simultaneously playing the electric violin was a
bizarre spectacle in a Masterworks concert.

Other featured performers were guest conductor Gregory Pritchard and
Keitaro Harada, the MSO's assistant conductor.

They displayed different styles of conducting, but both were highly
effective communicators.

The overture from Gilbert and Sullivan's "HMS Pinafore," although not
demanding from a conducting standpoint, showed that Pritchard would not
settle for mere band leading, but was well-grounded in the art of
orchestral conducting. Pritchard's technique was of understated physical
motion, but managed well the changes and fluctuations of tempo in both
the Paganinimania and Kodaly's "Hary Janos Suite." His interpretive
sense was tasteful and innovative. He used silences as well as sound
as shown in the final bars of the prelude. An extended total cessation
of sound highlighted the final, whispered sigh of this movement.

Harada, on the other hand, was at times almost flamboyant in his
gestures to the orchestra, yet not in any way ostentatious. Instead,
his style was highly expressive. His cues to the individual sections of
the orchestra were clear and well-prepared. He brought out both the
witty and the noble aspects of Prokofiev's "Love of Three Oranges,"
yet met the demanding challenges of the demonstrative and dramatic
setting of "Spring" by Piazzolla.

The best treat of this program, however, was the encore: the finale
of Mozart's clarinet concerto played by Jones County High School junior
Anna Darnell. Darnell, a student of Mercer University's Monty Cole, was
the winner of last year's MSO concerto competition for young musicians.
Her ability to articulate both legato and staccato was professional in
quality. Her trills were actually ornamental, as they should be, instead
of the heavy structural feel many musicians mistakenly produce. Her
phrasing was sensitively shaped, and she was equally accomplished in high
and low ranges of the instrument. She earned a well-deserved standing
ovation from the audience.