Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 19, 2023

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, "80th Anniversary Concert"

Symphony Hall, Springfield, MA
October 14, 2023
by Beverly Dane

Opening night for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra was truly a Grand Celebration. 

At the top of the program, the audience was welcomed by Paul Lambert, President and CEO of the Symphony followed by remarks from the night's sponsor, Lyman & Leslie Woods. Lyman Woods praised all of those who had parts in making this important concert come to be. Woods continued, teasing the audience with a question as to whether they'd like to see Kevin Rhodes back as Maestro. The question was met with robust applause. 

This evening's program was a who's who for those onstage. Almost a dozen musicians were asked to stand to be lauded. The common denominator among these performers was their long tenure with SSO. Each started 40+ years ago. Amazing! Such experience and talent shined through every concert and especially this one. 

SSO began, as on every opening night, with a rousing rendition of "The National Anthem". Of course, the audience stood to attention. It felt warm and familiar to participate in an opening ritual. As with any tradition, it brought a smile for memories of seasons past and a sigh of relief for new memories yet to be made. 

This coming season promises both familiar old favorites and anticipation of new pieces. Trying something novel, SSO will present two matinees, one each on November 4, 2023 and March 9, 2024. This move from the evening performances are management's efforts to encourage new audience members to attend at 2:30pm in addition to the usual at 7:30pm. We will have to see if this is successful.

Our guest conductor Mei-Ann Chen brought energy and enthusiasm to the musicians, audience, and music. At times, I thought she would jump right off the podium in her excitement to push the orchestra to perfection during the aptly named "Festive Overture" by Dmitry Shostakovich. Chen was born in Taiwan and was the first New England Conservatory student to be awarded double master's degrees simultaneously in both violin and conducting. We were extremely fortunate to have Chen on the Symphony Hall stage. 

Guest soloist Amaryn Olmeda flowed onto the stage in a beautiful full-length dress with autumn colors. More importantly, her instrument's music seemed to flow during Max Bruch's "Violin Concerto No. 1" with equal beauty and grace. At the age of 15, Olmeda displayed a talent and confidence well beyond her years. She currently studies at Boston's New England Conservatory of Music. She has natural talent and has already made her Carnegie Hall solo debut. 

The evening concluded after intermission with Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Symphony No. 2".  Its four movements provided enough variation to spotlight the symphony's diverse talent. 

This special celebration concert ended for musicians and audience, alike, in the beautiful Mahogany Room with a champagne toast to both Mei-Ann Chen and Amaryn Olmeda. A wonderful start to a most auspicious anniversary for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.