Article and Photos by Matt Smith
As you make your way toward the red velvet seat in the newly refurbished Wallace Auditorium, clutching your program to the Children’s Story Concert, which boasts the titular characters of the evening’s respective pieces, you hear the faint murmurs of the Chappaqua Orchestra tuning up, and almost immediately feel a rush of excitement. You pause to breathe, look around, and take it all in; you’re preparing yourself for the journey on which you are about to embark.
Upon exiting the building, you’ll snap back to reality and remember you’re indeed in Westchester, but inside the auditorium, that detail is sure to be easily forgotten. With your eyes closed, the sound of the orchestra makes you feel like you’re at Lincoln Center… and you are, in fact, after all, witnessing “the Jewel of New Castle” perform one of the most popular and well-known pieces in the history of classical music. In short, it’s an incredibly moving experience you’re sure to remember.
The November afternoon began with The Runaway Bunny, a musical adaptation of the classic children’s story by Margaret Wise Brown, as composed by Glen Roven–who, it should be noted, was in attendance at the event. Narrated by WQXR’s Elliott Forrest, the composition was accompanied by a series of illustrative projections, which guided the audience visually through the titular bunny’s journey–from the trout stream to the mountains to the circus. The arrangement itself provided a beautiful instrumental background to the story, that served to set the tone of the piece, establish a musical theme for each location, and punctuate significant moments in Forrest’s narration, with either a blast of a trumpet, a flourish of a flute, or the pluck of a violin string–by famed violinist Kinga Augustyn, no less, who served as a soloist on that selection.
The second orchestration kicked off with an introduction of the characters and their representative instruments–Peter (strings), the Bird (flute), the Cat (clarinet), the Duck (oboe), the Hunters (timpani & large drums), Grandfather (Bassoon), and of course, the Wolf (french horns)–before the orchestra launched into the string refrain so familiar and reminiscent of our childhood.
To end the program, conductor Michael Shapiro gave each section of the orchestra their own individual recognition, a gesture met with a rousing, well-deserved standing ovation from the audience.
Overall, “the concert was a success,” comments David Restivo, Executive Director of The Chappaqua Orchestra. “We know the people who came really enjoyed themselves.” He adds that TCO is planning to arrange another Children’s Story Concert in 2016, and hopes to make the program a bi-annual event in the years following.
It certainly seems like a great idea, as the first concert was very well received. Reiterates Restivo: “Anyone who missed this show really missed a great performance!” So, keep an eye out next year: it’s a truly one-of-a-kind experience… and it’s right here in Chappaqua! How could you lose?!
Restivo also wishes to thank sponsors Kiwi Country Day Camp and the Westchester Conservatory of Music who provided guests with activities such as face painting, bead-making and tic-tac-toe, and the instrumental “petting zoo,” respectively — and the Town of New Castle for supporting such a significant event.
“It is so vital for children to see these types of concerts [live and in person],” he continues, “and to realize these things don’t just happen on TV or on their iPads.”
Shapiro reiterates the importance of “bringing professional level music of all kinds to our local community,” especially for the kids, because “it’s essential” to instill the youngsters with a deepened appreciation and “enthusiasm for music.”
And with a program like this winter’s Children’s Story Concert and an orchestra as lively as TCO, it doesn’t seem like too hard a goal to achieve!
The Wallace Auditorium is located within Chappaqua Crossing, at 480 Bedford Road, just off of 117. For more information on The Chappaqua Orchestra, visit www.chappaquaorchestra.org.