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Twinkling and sparkling

An organ and brass holiday celebration
in Cleveland, USA,
reviewed by KELLY FERJUTZ


On an evening when the University Circle area of Cleveland resembled nothing so much as a Christmas card, twinkling and sparkling under eight to ten inches of falling snow, some fifteen hundred or so intrepid souls made their way to Severance Hall on 22 December 2004 for the first of two Holiday Festival concerts featuring Todd Wilson and the Burning River Brass. A new addition -- musically -- to this year's lineup was the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, the choral equivalent of the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.

Once in the concert hall, the other new enhancement was readily obvious. A huge painting of the lower portion of a decorated Christmas tree, complete with dangling ornaments, spread across the top of the proscenium, while a painting replicating a great swathe of swagged fabric covered the front of the stage to floor level. The false boxes on either side were not ignored, either. On house left was a faux stained glass window featuring a pine tree in snow. The panel on the opposite side held a snowman. At times during the evening, these panels were back-lit, adding an extra glow to the proceedings.

Initially, the hall was bathed in warm, gold lighting on the ceiling of both stage and auditorium, most appropriate for the opening work -- O, Come, All Ye Faithful -- a jubilant arrangement by Roger Harvey for organ and brass. This was followed by a 'Festive' Suite comprised of three individual pieces by J S Bach as the stage lights shifted to a cool blue-violet. First, for brass was Concerto in G major (on a theme by Vivaldi); next, for organ was Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring; and finally, for both organ and brass, the sprightly first movement of the Concerto in A minor, drawn from Bach's own Concerto for Four Harpsichords.

For A Suite of 13th Century Carols arranged by Harvey, the stage lighting switched back to red again. The Basque carol Gabriel's Message was followed by the British Coventry Carol and the Spanish Riu, Riu, Chiu. (These three carols are part of the Christmas Around the World CD just released by the Burning River Brass.)

Under soft yet regal violet lighting, the Polish carol Infant Holy, Infant Lowly once again joined the organ with the brass for this re-telling of the scene in the stable. In Dulci Jubilo featured chimes along with trumpets, and in the middle a lovely horn solo. This arrangement by Leslie Pearson (illuminated by strings of lights hanging down from the ceiling at the back of the stage) provided a wonderful fortissimo ending.

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Copyright © 27 December 2004 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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