By Eileen Gallagher
On the first cold day of the season, members of the Chappaqua Orchestra turned up the heat and had their audience tapping their toes and snapping their fingers. For one mesmerizing hour, the women detained at the medium-security Taconic Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills delightedly soaked in the tones and melodies of the octet led by Cynthia Peterson.
“Tone color is like a painting,” Peterson shared with the attentive audience between performances. “The colors are created by individual instruments and combinations.”
“When I play [the bassoon], I feel like I am going back in time,” mused Diane Fedora of her instrument, whose origin dates back to the 1500’s. Many of the women were curious about the bassoon, as well as Recreation Director Michael Lynch, who arranged the afternoon’s performance.
“I heard through the grapevine that [the orchestra] did a fantastic job,” said Lynch. The Chappaqua Orchestra had performed in 2013 in a maximum-security prison upstate, and word got around. “Being a musician myself, I was looking forward to hearing them, too.”
The atmosphere went from serene to lively as bassist Lou Pappas got heads bopping with his version of the jazzy “Sister Sadie.” After demonstrating a typical bass beat, he excitedly went into a melody. Andy Stein, a violinist, joked that Pappas would be a “tough act to follow” before joining him in the duet “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
Violinist Chie Yoshinaka gave a breathtaking solo performance of Piazzolla’s Tengo Etude #3. Mozart’s “Larghetto” for quintet featured clarinetist Erik Drucker. All eight musicians, including Jules Lai on viola, cellist Seth Jacobs, and Adam Schommer on French horn, performed Beethoven’s Symphony #2, and many in the audience closed their eyes, seemingly transported by the sounds of the strings and reeds.
As the performance came to a close, the audience was given the opportunity to ask a few questions. What did they ask? “Do you have time for more jazz?” Happy to oblige, Stein and Pappas gave an encore performance of the jazz standard “Body and Soul” for the grateful crowd.
Lynch, thanking the musicians, added, “This is a professional orchestra, and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did.” As the women filed out happily, a smiling Lynch said, “Hopefully we can make this an annual event.”
This inspiring performance was made possible by generous donor funds earmarked for this project, according to Peterson. Anyone potentially interested in helping to sponsor a prison performance, an important part of the orchestra’s outreach, should contact Cynthia Peterson at email@example.com.