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Civic Symphony offers free concert

By Lori O' Brien


HOLYOKE With area residents continually trying to find ways to beat the winter doldrums, the Holyoke Civic Symphony has one suggestion its free concert on March 12.

What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon then immersed in the sound of music, right? The Holyoke Civic Symphony, under the direction of David Kidwell, Music Director and Conductor, will present a concert titled "French and Russian Masterpieces" at 3 p.m. in the Forum Concert Hall at Holyoke Community College, Homestead Avenue. Concertgoers are asked to park in Lots F and G.

"It's a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon," said Kidwell, adding "many area residents are not aware they have a very fine orchestra right in their own town."

During an interview with Reminder Publications, Kidwell explained that the three pieces to be performed are all from the same time period, from the late 19th century to early 20th century, and also have a geographic connection since several important Russian composers emigrated to France.

The orchestra will perform Dukas' "La Peri: Fanfare"; Chausson' "Poeme, Op. 25," and Rimsky-Korsakov' "Scheherazade, Op. 35."

"The theme of Orientalism is strong in two of the works," said Kidwell. "Scheherazade is a music retelling of the Arabian Nights stories, and the La Peri ballet is set in Iraq. During the late 19th century, western Europe was fascinated by the Eastern culture."

Kidwell described "Scheherazade, Op. 35" as one of the most familiar and beloved orchestral pieces ever written.

"It is an extremely difficult and effective showpiece for any orchestra, and it's a real milestone for the Holyoke Civic Symphony," he said.

The orchestra's concertmaster is Irina Condon, who was trained and worked in Russia for many years before moving to the Pioneer Valley. She will be the violin soloist for the works by Chausson and Rimsky-Korsakov.

"She brings a wonderful Russian depth of feeling to these pieces, and I'm very excited to feature her," said Kidwell.

"Poeme" is a beautiful yet seldom-heard work for violin solo and orchestra, according to Kidwell, while "La Peri" is a short and exciting work for brass ensemble.

The orchestra is composed of approximately 50 musicians who rehearse for six to eight weeks prior to each concert.

"Since 'Scheherazade' is so difficult," said Kidwell, "the musicians were given their parts in early December so they could have extra time to practice."

The March 12 concert is the fourth in a series of five concerts for the season. The series concludes with a concert titled "Glorious Gershwin" on May 7. Kenneth Forfia, a member of Springfield Technical Community College's music faculty, will be the piano soloist for Gershwin's "Concerto in F," and Kidwell will be the piano soloist for Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

For more information on the Holyoke Civic Symphony, visit

Persons interested in joining the orchestra can contact Kidwell at (413) 585-5769. Rehearsals are conducted on Mondays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Holyoke Community College. Opportunities are provided for local professional musicians to perform as guest soloists and to contribute original compositions for the orchestra to perform, according to Kidwell.