Concerts with Conscience

Sinfonia may 2016

I am privileged to be the music director of a fledgling professional chamber orchestra, Sinfonia Salt Lake, made up of some of the finest freelance talent in the region. Our concert last night, our second concert ever, was a resounding artistic success.

After a hellacious week of concert preparations, radio interviews, rehearsals, last minute emergencies and constant worries about finances, Sinfonia Salt Lake performed an energetic and refined program (Handel, Haydn, Purcell and Walton) with aplomb. We’ve happily discovered a superb acoustic at the historic First United Methodist Church in downtown Salt Lake City. Yet we performed to what a critic might refer to as a “small but enthusiastic audience.” You can interchange many adjectives for “enthusiastic:” appreciative, enraptured, attentive…but small is small. Quite simply, we had hoped for a much larger crowd.

“Small, but appreciative” doesn’t pay the bills, and yet something perhaps more important almost went by without notice last night.

Last night’s Sinfonia Salt Lake concert had four young visitors who rode their bikes 40 blocks from South Salt Lake to attend our performance.  They were students from the Utah International Charter School, where we performed a school program last week and offered the students free admission for our concert.  Part of our mission as an ensemble is to reach beyond the concert hall and into the community for every concert by partnering with underserved populations and community charities. This particular school teaches a diverse community of children largely from immigrant and refugee families. These four youngsters were so enthused by our contact with them, a mere 45 minutes with live music and musicians, that they traveled 7 miles by bicycle to attend the concert.  They had to leave at intermission so they could get home before it got dark. They still had to ride 40 blocks to get home!

I’ll wager those kids made more personal investment that anyone else in the audience in order to attend our concert. And while we spent a lot of time beating the bushes and pulling our hair out trying to find the money for this concert, our investment in these kids may matter more in the long run. Yes, we need bigger audiences and donations to keep our ensemble afloat. But this type of story is one that reminds us of the greater purpose of being an artist. It is also something that we can use to illustrate how we as musicians can make a difference in the community.

So while we continue to fret about finances, even as we excitedly announce our next season, this provided a good perspective for what we can achieve beyond the notes on the page. Among all of the little details and stresses, it is nice to know there is something intangibly beautiful about what we do.

 

Leslie and friend Charter school

Picture: Sinfonia Concertmaster, Leslie Henrie with a new friend from our school concert

Information (and a donation button!) can be found on our website. Please consider spreading the word of our group and consider making a donation if desired and able. We really appreciate it!

www.sinfoniasaltlake.com

 

Sinfonia-12

Sinfonia Salt Lake’s mission is to provide professional quality classical music concerts with a community conscience. In addition to providing professional quality chamber orchestra concerts in various historic locales around the Salt Lake Valley, the ensemble has a unique mission to connect with the community for every concert by partnering with underserved populations and community charities. Collaborations have included the Utah Food Bank, and for this concert, the Utah International Charter School, a school serving largely children from immigrant and refugee families.

And if you are in the area, consider attending our concerts next season! You’ll be glad you did!

Sinfonia Salt Lake 2016-2017 Season

September 12: Italian Inspirations

  • Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances No 3
  • Mozart: Exsultate Jubilate (Melissa Heath, soprano)
  • Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence

October 10: Towards the Dark Side…

  • Boccherini: Symphony No. 6, La Casa del Diavolo
  • Hermann: Suite from Psycho
  • Schubert/Mahler: Death and the Maiden

December 3: Amahl and the Night Visitors with Utah Lyric Opera Ensemble

  • Menotti: Amahl and the Night Visitors

January 16: MLK Day Concert. The Voices of America. Guest speaker TBA

  • Gould: Spirituals for Strings
  • Edward Reichel: Night Echoes, World Premiere written for Sinfonia Salt Lake!
  • Walker: Lyric for Strings
    Copland: Appalachian Spring (original 13-instrument version)

March 13 (DATE yet to be confirmed) Vivaldi in the Ospedale: A New Concert Experience. Narrator/Actors/Dancers, TBA.

  • Vivaldi: Concerti with Sinfonia players
  • Hohnstein: Night in the Ospedale

May 15: A Mozart Family Affair. Gerald Elias, guest conductor

  • Selections include a Sinfonia by Leopold Mozart, a Piano Concerto by Franz Xavier Mozart , and a Symphony by WA Mozart

June 24: Utah Arts Festival, Composers Chamber Commission Concert

 

Copyright 2016, Robert Baldwin, Before the Downbeat

The Lions of Childhood

Today’s blog entry is a departure from the usual posts about music.  But not really.  Musicians often have passions that are informed by compassion for others.  Now you know one of mine.

cecilthelionAslan. Elsa. The Lions Club International, Snagglepuss, Lippy the Lion. MGM. The Wizard of Oz.
Here’s an idea. Think of all the lions from your childhood: in literature, movies, cartoons, corporate logos, sports teams. The image is ubiquitous for a reason. The life of a big cat, and lions in particular, stand for something integral to the human psyche, as a mythic, yet LIVING symbol. It helps define our social group, concepts of strength, family, struggle and success. In many ways, the lion is a reflection of ourselves.

People have been the cause of many extinctions. Some by direct actions; some by changing the ecology. We wiped out the Passenger Pigeon in recent times, and probably the Mastodon and Wooly Mammoth in prehistoric times. Humans pushed the lion out of Europe and most of Asia. People almost wiped out the American Bison and beaver because of greed, but then the ECONOMICS changed. People almost wiped out the American Bald Eagle due to DDT usage, but realized in enough time for CHANGE to be made. But there is little doubt that our species exerts great pressure on the world.

But we humans also have a kernel of understanding, or at least the potential for it– knowing that PRESERVATION extends beyond our own species and individual self-interests. While civilization had always pressed against the wild, we as a species have also gained deep meaning from it. Cave paintings from far in the past show our interaction with nature. Religious stories and metaphors we still value today include every manner of animal: reptiles, primates, insects, amphibians, fish, whales, birds, etc. And big cats, notably lions.

OK. Now imagine yourself traveling 150-200+ years into the future. Children may read these works containing lions (or other animals) and see these images as no longer living. They may hear more than one movement of Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals as fossils. They may need reminding that a lion was once a real thing, like a dinosaur or saber-toothed cat. Or a thing mythologized, like a dragon–something belonging to the past, not the present.

It’s not a far putt from where we are today. Does that bother you? It does me.
Now, think of doing something about it, stopping the slaughter and reversing the trend. We’ve done it before for some species. We’ve failed to save others. Will we choose to at least try? I, for one, know on which side of the line to stand.

Copyright, 2015. Robert Baldwin, Before the Downbeat.