The Alexandria Symphony presented its first Family Concert on Saturday afternoon at T.C. Williams High School. Based on the quality of the performance and the size and enthusiasm of the audience, it is a format that certainly deserves to be repeated.
The highlight of the concert was Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," accompanied by slide projections of various artworks created by area children and adults. This was not the first "slides to music" presentation that this reviewer has seen, but it certainly was one of the best.
The execution of the slide show was totally seamless and professional. The visuals, photographed by Ihor Makara, of Infinite Color, and produced and directed by Christopher J. Spielmann and Donald A. Stockman, of Freelance Photographers and Associates Inc., had the smoothness of what you might see at a business convention. But instead of some glossy commercial product, you saw wonderful pictures drawn by local children and artists.
Maybe no single piece would be considered fine art, but the smooth juxtaposition of varied impressions of Moussorgsky's dark but vivid musical imagery -- the Gnomes, Huts on Fowls Legs, skeletons from The Catacombs, and Great Gates of Kiev -- created a compelling and stimulating accompaniment to the beautifully performed music from the orchestra.
The Promenade themes were accompanied by photographs of a model of a long gallery with black and white tiles on the floor and gilt-framed paintings lining the wall. A figurine of a stooped old man with black coat and cane slowly made its way down the hall, stopping to observe the next picture in the sequence -- it was touching and evocative.
The model with its figurine, only a few inches high, was created by Susan Makara and Michael Makara. It and all of the artwork were on display in the lobby, and the audience took pleasure in associating images from the slides with the original works.
Nine-year-old pianist Sara Beth Goncarovs performed the first movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto in C Major, a charming work drawn from the composer's earlier period. She played with authority and clarity, supple phrasing and very nice tone. And in two exciting passages with prominent octaves in the bass, Goncarovs also demonstrated noteworthy strength for her age. Conductor Kim Allen Kluge and the orchestra were excellent partners in the ensemble.
The program opened with an amusing rendition of Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" led by guest conductor Waller T. Dudley, a local lawyer and music buff, and featuring a raft of local politicians and prominent citizens on various percussion instruments from spoons to bicycle horns.
Singer and dancer Dorothy Yanes performed "Do-Re-Mi" from "The Sound of Music" and a medley from "West Side Story" with her usual vitality and aplomb, although her voice seemed on the foggy side compared with other performances (part of it was the amplification). Her dance interpretation of "I Want to Be in America" was sparkling and appealing.
It should be mentioned that the creators of the slide presentation and all performers donated their services for this concert, which was a benefit for the symphony.
The only problem with the evening was the amount of time taken between musical numbers. Master of ceremonies Gant Redmon was a charming enough host, but his scripts were long and not terribly entertaining for the younger members of the audience. Between that and moving the piano on and off the stage, there seemed to be more time taken in logistics than in music.