SMF Students Offer an Introduction to Potential Developments for SSC Teens

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I had the pleasure of interviewing some Summer Music Festival students recently. Working with Sarah Troxler, Director of Student Engagement, I asked both SSC students and students from outside of the community about the kinds of programs they’d like to see at SSC in the future. Current students and non-SSC students alike expressed an interest in community service opportunities, such as performances at hospitals and retirement centers. Another popular idea was the establishment of more student ensembles, such as jazz ensembles. Stay tuned as we continue to explore student activities possibilities for the 2017-2018 school year and years to come!

Summer Music Festival Students Take the Stage

DSC_0048 (2)By Elaine Sorrentino
Many years ago, when I first heard Summer Music Festival ensembles warming up and playing through their music for the first time, I couldn’t believe I was listening to student musicians.  The Jane Carr Amphitheater was yet to be built, so their sound infused our building with a musical fullness you would only associate with a professional orchestra.  I could only imagine what it would be like to be a part of something that sounded so majestic.  Years later, I am still in awe of those first notes played during the two-week camp, and the excellence of their final performances.

Summer Music Festival (SMF) is one of South Shore Conservatory’s longest standing programs.  It offers woodwind, brass and percussion students, in middle school through college, the opportunity to spread their wings and hone their music skills by performing in high-level wind and percussion, chamber and jazz ensembles.  Music educators from all over the state send their most dedicated students to be a part of SMF.  This year we have students participating from many South Shore communities, as well as from as far as Bellingham, Needham Heights, Wellesley Hills, Foxboro, Mansfield and North Attleboro.

What I find fascinating about these students is their willingness to give up precious hours of sleep to be here on campus, ready to play, by 8 am.  In my book, that’s dedication!  And, they’re not here because they need five credits for school, or because they need to fill their sixth period block.  They’re here because of their commitment to their craft and their desire to be the best musician they can be.  Of course, many are also here for the friendships formed and bonds shared through their mutual love of music.

This year’s performances are coming up this week.  On Thursday, July 20 at 12 noon, the amphitheater will be graced with the sounds of chamber music.  This program is coordinated by Janet Underhill, who has managed and developed the chamber music program for Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra for ten years. I look forward to hearing a variety of pieces and styles.

SMF’s two jazz ensembles, directed by Bobby Glynn and Aaron Bush, present their final performance Thursday, July 20 at 7 pm.  The Afternoon Chamber ensembles, directed by Janet and Lidia Chang, and comprised of mostly advanced student musicians, open the program for them.  These groups always wow the audience with their confidence, skill and ability to improvise their music. As for me, I’m more of a ‘rehearse-it-until-you-can-do-it-in-your-sleep’ kind of musician.  I leave nothing to chance, but not these students!

Friday, July 21 at 11:30 am in Cox Hall, All-Star Band, under the direction of Susan May-Goodwin, take the stage for a short “informance.”  These are SMF’s youngest students, most of them in elementary school.

Summer Music Festival’s two wind ensembles, Festival Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Eric Laprade, and Summer Wind Ensemble, under the direction of Bobby Glynn, take the stage on Friday, July 21, 7 pm.  Final performance night is always magical, and the music is indescribably moving and extremely well-prepared. Close your eyes and listen, and you’ll imagine you’re hearing professional performers playing.  Open them, and you’ll see young musicians focused intently on their music, working together to create something really amazing.

The Jane Carr Amphitheater is located on the grounds of SSC’s Hingham campus, at One Conservatory Drive.  Parking is onsite and admission is free for all student concerts.  To learn more about South Shore Conservatory programs and events, visit www.sscmusic.org.

 

Former Hingham music teacher rocks the music of Billy Joel

Jon Abrams 1.jpgBy Jon Abrams
Until I was 14, I listened exclusively to the Beatles. They were my first musical love. Then I discovered the music of Billy Joel. Since then, my relationship with his body of work has been that of both student and performer. Probably my favorite Billy Joel songs to perform are ‘Angry Young Man’ and ‘New York State of Mind,’ especially because I now live on Manhattan’s upper west side, and ‘Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.’  I don’t consider myself Billy Joel fan; I feel more like a messenger.

What moves me most about Billy’s music is how the lyrics reflect the emotion of the music. When he writes a new song, he starts by writing the music first. He doesn’t even think about lyrics until he’s decided on rhythm, melody and harmony for the song. Then, he plays the finished instrumental product back to himself in order to ‘hear’ what the music says to him. I enjoy singing his lyrics and playing his piano parts because they fit together perfectly. And the audience feels it too on some level.

I put together the original Billy Joel tribute band called ‘The Strangers’ when I was a senior in college. My musician friends, all older than I was, had experience playing together and in many types of situations. After few calls, I assembled the six-member band from the drums up. We had our first show in July of 2006. Over the years our name has changed to ‘Jon Abrams & The Strangers’, and then again to simply Jon Abrams and his Billy Joel Band – a tribute. Over the years some members have left and others have joined, but I feel the lineup we have at present is the tightest, most ‘in tune’-with-the-music band we’ve had to date.

Our two sax players, a killer, powerful rhythm section, two guitarists including Billy’s original guitar player, David Brown make for a truly special experience for me (playing piano and singing with this band – it’s like driving a fast, smooth car up 93 at night with no traffic) and for the audience. David became part of the band after I wrote him a heartfelt letter about how his playing has affected my life. I never expected to hear back, but he contacted me, and after an hour-long conversation he agreed to join us onstage at our next show. That was ten years ago and he’s with us still – a gift from the music gods.

In 2009, when I was teaching elementary school in Lexington, the Movin’ Out tour invited me to join them, playing piano and singing Billy Joel tunes. It was a great experience that taught me about professional entertainment and show business. As a Broadway company, we delivered a product the same each night. It’s very different from a concert where one can take musical liberties. Mostly, it taught me that lots of people love Billy’s music, and motivated me to continue on with my tribute band after the tour ended.  Although Billy knows our band exists, he hasn’t been to a show yet. Maybe someday. Fingers crossed.

One of the best experiences of my life was teaching in the Hingham Public Schools. I found the kids eager to learn, eager to please, eager to achieve results, and they couldn’t have been more welcoming. They were cool-headed and warm-hearted, and they made those two years tremendously rewarding. In addition to teaching at the high school, I taught fifth grade chorus from 2013-2015. Those students would now be in eighth and ninth grade.  It would be wonderful to see my former students again, along with their families, at the concert. I hope they come and enjoy the vibe. We are especially looking forward to performing in the amphitheater. Open air shows are our favorites.

South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series presents Jon Abrams and his Billy Joel Band – a tribute on Saturday, July 22, 7 pm at the Jane Carr Amphitheater at One Conservatory Drive in Hingham. More information and tickets at http://sscmusic.org/evenings_under_the_stars.html or 781-749-7565, ext. 22.

Songs of Summer

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From upbeat Vivaldi to sensual Gershwin to exotic Ginastera, this summer playlist will inspire you to soak up the spirit of the season! These gems will surely add some sweetness to your sunny mornings and balmy nights. Dip your feet in the pool and relax!

1. Mendelssohn: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 21: Overture (Tempo primo)

2. Elgar: Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op. 20: 1. Allegro piacevole

3. Gershwin: Porgy and Bess: Act 1: Summertime

4. Franck: Violin Sonata in A Major, FWV 8: Allegretto poco mosso

5. Ravel: Miroirs, M. 43: III. Une barque sur l’ocean

6. Dun: Eight Memories in Watercolour, Op. 1: 6. Floating Clouds

7. Ginastera: Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2: II. Danza de la moza donosa

8. Tallis: Fantasia on a Theme

9. Saint-Saens: Le Carnval des animaux: XIII. Le cygne

10. Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – Summer in G Minor, RV. 315: III. Presto
 

Celtic music brings her back to her Irish roots

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By Elaine Sorrentino

Once my friend Sharon heard the singers croon, “Oh the summertime is coming and the trees are sweetly blooming…” at A Celtic Sojourn in the Jane Carr Amphitheater last summer, she was immediately transported back to the Dublin elementary school where she learned the traditional Irish tune. She smiled as she told me “it brought back such great memories for me.”

So, it’s no surprise that Sharon is looking forward to WGBH host Brian O’Donovan and A Celtic Sojourn returning to the Evenings Under the Stars concert series on Saturday, July 15. Because Saturdays are busy for her, Sharon doesn’t often find time to listen to O’Donovan’s show, although she thoroughly enjoys Celtic music. Coming to last year’s concert, with its eclectic mix of instrumental and vocal music and dance, brought back fond memories of home for her.

Growing up in Ireland, Sharon remembers music playing all the time in her family home. She was brought up in a time when Ireland was becoming more contemporary, the radio was always on, and there was a real mix of music to enjoy. Her mother and father loved listening to opera and musicals, she and her siblings loved more modern music such as Abba and U2 (this is still her favorite band), and together they all enjoyed a smattering of traditional Irish music. Sharon has fond memories of her family watching Derry-born musician/songwriter Phil Coulter on television, as he performed traditional and original Irish music. Although it wasn’t Abba or U2, she said she loved listening to him play these much-loved tunes. This is some of the same music she heard last summer.

But A Celtic Sojourn: Roots and Branches show is not only about music. It’s also about dance – the kind that is so energetic that makes you tired just watching! Last year’s award-winning Miller Family dancers are returning, and Sharon shares that she thinks they are sensational. She should know. She took a full two months or so of Irish step dancing when she was a kid, but it just didn’t click! She does admit that during those months she learned the basic one-two-three necessary for dances such as the Irish jig, or reel, or The Walls of Limerick or the Siege of Ennis. While she was a school girl she went to a few “ceoils” which were evenings to dance to traditional Irish music. I was surprised to learn that, until Riverdance, Sharon never heard of Irish step dancing being presented as a show of its own, but as a part of other shows, much like the dance portion of A Celtic Sojourn.

Join us on Saturday, July 15, 7 pm at the Jane Carr Amphitheater, One Conservatory Drive in Hingham, for a fun variety of Celtic yarns as told by O’Donovan, acts and music in the open air. If you see a pretty red-haired girl named Sharon, you can be sure that her feet will be tapping, and her body swaying to the lively music. For more information about Evenings Under the Stars performances or for tickets, visit http://sscmusic.org/evenings_under_the_stars.html, call 781-749-7565, ext. 22, or find South Shore Conservatory on Facebook.

Elaine Sorrentino is South Shore Conservatory’s Communications Director.

This Saturday: Out of this World with Mozart!

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By Nicholas Palmer

It’s such a great thrill every year when I have the opportunity to conduct the phenomenal Evenings Under the Stars (EUS) Festival Orchestra for our yearly concert at the Jane Carr Amphitheater at South Shore Conservatory (SSC) in Hingham! There is a tremendous synergy in our concerts that comes from an intangible but clear connection between the audience and the performers. Maybe it’s the beautiful setting, maybe it’s the great acoustics, maybe it’s just being out in nature and listening to great music; whatever it is, it brings people back year after year.

As conductor, I like to program a variety of light classical and popular music each year, in the style of an Arthur Fiedler Boston Pops concert.  This season it’s Von Suppe and Mozart to start, followed by John Williams and friends in the second half. When possible, we have a soloist with a connection to SSC, and this year is no different.  Talented clarinetist and SSC faculty member Peter Bianca soloes on Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major, which we are presenting in its entirety.

Music on the second half includes some of the best known Sci-Fi movie tunes from blockbusters such as Star Wars 7, E.T., Star Trek, and ends with audience favorites 1812 Overture Finale and, of course, The Stars and Stripes Forever.

I find it an honor and a great pleasure to conduct the EUS Festival Orchestra, one of the finest orchestras anywhere. Members of the orchestra perform with the Boston Pops and Esplanade orchestras, Boston Ballet, Rhode Island Philharmonic, etc., and they return every year to play together in Hingham. It’s become a “gathering of friends” for 21 years now. What they achieve, year after year, in one short rehearsal is nothing short of remarkable!

South Shore Conservatory has been part of my life and that of my family for five decades: my brother and I and several of my cousins took lessons here and performed with many different ensembles throughout the years.  I’ve conducted orchestras at SSC on and off for 35 years, and my mother Dorothy Palmer and aunt, Phyllis Godwin, have been big supporters of SSC since its inception.

For me it’s a busy life being a conductor:  I currently work with several orchestras across the USA, including the Lafayette Symphony (IN), North Charleston POPS! (SC), Dubuque Festival Orchestra (IA), and the Seasong Music Festival (FL).  I am excited to be making my London Philharmonic debut in September at the Abbey Road Studio. But my favorite concert every year is the Evening Under the Stars Festival Orchestra right here in my hometown, Hingham.  Hope you can join us for a fun evening!

South Shore Conservatory’s Evenings Under the Stars concert series kicks off its 21st season on July 8, as the Evenings Under the Stars Festival Orchestra, with Conductor Nicholas Palmer, presents Out of this World with Mozart.  For more details and tickets, visit www.sscmusic.org or call 781-749-7565, ext.22.  “Like” South Shore Conservatory on Facebook to learn about upcoming SSC programs and performances.

Make Your Wednesdays a Little Wackier in July!

By Beth MacLeod Largent

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Get the kids moving and grooving on JULY 5 with Vanessa Trien and the Jumping MonkeyBy Beth MacLeod Largent      

With a huge tropical blast of hot air, summer has finally arrived here on the South Shore, and I’m excited for what’s coming up next month: Wacky Wednesdays!  Running this series of four family-focused concerts is one of the most FUN things I do all year here at South Shore Conservatory.  From hand-selecting each performer, to marketing them each by their uniqueness, to running the actual concert, the process is filled with giggles and unfettered joy.In order to ensure everyone has the best experience possible, we start WAAAAAAAAAAAY back in early September, by recalling what received the biggest “wow” the previous summer. I speak to parents of preschool and school-age children, and ask them what they might like to see. What are they looking for in a performance? What do their children enjoy most? Those answers, always fascinating to me, help guide my decision to choose one performer over another.

Mostly I discover that parents are looking for FUN.  But in addition to that, they also want great quality musicians, music that they themselves can enjoy listening to, and an event that they can count on to run rain or shine. No disappointed faces the morning of!  Mix that all together, and I get to work calling artists, watching videos, catching as many live events as I can, and from that I choose the performers I think are the best fit for our audience.

What makes it easier this year is that all but one of the performers have already performed at Wacky Wednesdays.  They love the venue, they love the families, and the families love them. I often have more artists wishing to return than we have spots on the program, which is a good problem to have! Then the ramp up begins – we publicize, we sell tickets and before you know it, it’s here and I’m welcoming many tiny grinning humans to our beloved amphitheater.

One of my favorite memories from summers past, is of a rainy morning where so many children came in their boots that we puddle-stomped after the concert was over.  (By then the sun had returned!) Their total joy in the experience is what warms my heart, and what I look forward to during the long winter months. This is also what our sponsor Avis Goldstein, of The Harold and Avis Goldstein Trust, loves about this series.  It’s the complete, unbridled joy of children jumping, dancing, singing, and hugging each other at these concerts.  They make new friends instantly, bonding over free child-sized cups of chocolate milk and lemonade and 50 minutes of energetic music. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

South Shore Conservatory’s Wacky Wednesdays family concerts presents Vanessa Trien and the Jumping Monkeys on July 5, Karen K & the Jitterbugs on July 12, Alastair Moock and Friends on July 19, and Debbie and Friends on July 26.  All shows start at 10 am and acts go on rain or shine.   For more information or to order tickets, visit http://sscmusic.org/wacky_wednesdays.html or call 781-749-7565, ext. 22.

Beth MacLeod Largent is South Shore Conservatory’s Director of Performance.