By Lauren Schiavone
Hometown Weekly Staff
The overcast Sunday skies of November 13 provided the backdrop as Needham locals to made their way to Powers Hall for a special performance of the Rivers Symphony Orchestra. The Town Hall has a rich historic significance of its own, and lent some of its gravitas and cultural heft to the proceedings.
The space also lent its physical dimensions — the high ceilings of the building accommodated the multitude of instruments with crystalline acoustics, and the flex seating of the hall easily housed the crowd of listeners, eager to hear the Rivers Symphony Orchestra.
Based in Weston, the Rivers Symphony Orchestra has been playing music locally for over twenty-five years since its founding in 1996 with the purpose of promoting performance opportunities for talented adult and advanced students in the community.
Seats filled quickly as families, current and former conservatory students, and music lovers prepared for the orchestra’s appearance. Conductor Christopher Memoli first conducted the orchestra last fall, and has seen tremendous growth in the past year.
“We are fortunate that we have a special connection with each other that makes the orchestra the best we can,” remarked Ensemble Manager Bruce Goody. “We push each other. It’s wonderful. As we continue to grow in size with excellent musicians, we are increasing our repertoire by performing more challenging work to bring to the community.”
To that end, RSO opened strong with an overture from comic opera “The Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini. Audiences easily recognized the repetitive woodwind notes and buzzing strings. The dynamics were carefully controlled as Memoli conveyed direction with a small furrow of his brow and a tick of his baton; musicians shared the language and respond instantly, enveloping the audience in a blanket of rich, nuanced sound.
Guest Soloist Liana Zaretsky bowed with meticulous focus and support from the orchestra on Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 4 in D Major K.218”. The crowd was silent, in awe of Zaretsky and the equally talented musicians as they breathed life into the four movements of the piece. The full-bodied and graceful concerto showed the essence of the orchestra and their ability to not only play, but feel, perceive, and share the music with a receptive audience. The applause caught on as soon as intermission rolled around, and a slew of compliments flooded the hall.
The closing number, an arrangement of Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 5 (Reformation)”, delighted the audience further. The symphony wasn’t published until Mendelssohn’s death; the composer’s sister, Fanny, published it and named it “The Reformation”. The 4th movement marks the introduction of “the mighty fortress” hymn. It is aptly named, Goody shared: “Its a very powerful piece. It contains a nine-note flute solo, followed by a wind a quintet and the orchestra following.”
The sounds were not simply sounds, but rather punctuation of sentences forming an emotional story, churning the allegro, and resulting a soothing and unforgettable performance.
“For us,” commented Goody, “it is all about giving back to the community. This is a special situation with special people.”
The Rivers Symphony Orchestra has upcoming performances in March and May of 2023. Find them online at https://riversschoolconservatory.org/ensembles/riverssymphonyorchestra/