Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 11, 2024

Review: Springfield Chamber Players, "March Reveries"

First Church of Christ, Longmeadow, MA
March 10, 2024
by Lisa Covi

Photo by Eagan Pictures
New to many living in Western MA is Springfield Chamber Players, formerly known as MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra). Its mission is to provide small, primarily string, professional concerts in a variety of venues throughout Hampden County. 

The troupe continued its journey for the 2023/24 season as part of the Longmeadow Chamber Series held at First Church of Christ: an ideal, comfortable, and acoustically pleasing performance venue. The world-class musicians played well in this intimate setting for about 40 audience members. The program's theme was "March Reveries," and the quintet delivered an exciting and harmonious performance.

Clarinetist Christopher Cullen kicked off the Ralph Vaughan Williams piece – "Six Studies in English Folk Song". One would never guess that the composer penned his piece originally for cello and piano. Patricia Edens, cellist; and three violinists, Springfield Symphony concertmaster Masako Yanagita, Miho Matsuno, and Yuko Naito-Gotay filled out the quintet and blended seamlessly with the alto-like tones of melodic wind.

Each movement was surprisingly short and distinctive. The next two works were performed without clarinet, but solely strings. Selections from Franz Joseph Hadyn's “The Dream” (Op.50, No.5) delivered the reliable elegance of his tonic harmonies punctuated by running passages, and “contrary motion” where two musicians play notes that move in opposite directions. 

The two movements of Paul Chihara's "Ellington Fantasy: Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady" were recognizable as popular jazz tunes. However, the arrangement for string quartet transformed Ellington into an extraordinarily new feast for the ears. It echoed the music experience of Scott Joplin. 

The final piece, Bernard Herrmann's "Souvenirs de Voyage," reunited the strings with the clarinet to evoke memories of emotion, turmoil, regret, and amusement. Herrmann's skill at scoring for film and television, such as Citizen Kane and Twilight Zone's “The Living Doll,” were evident in the different points of view heard as each musician played a contrasting line in particular passages.

One advantage of the smaller venue is that each participant in the audience could hear the vibrations against the soundboards of the strings and the musicians' proficient bow techniques that usually blend into the background with larger performance groups. The chamber music series is not only highly entertaining, but a good way to access Springfield's elite performers.

Concerts continue as part of Westfield Athenaeum Chamber Music Series on Thursday, April 18 at 7pm, and once again at First Church of Christ, Longmeadow on May 12 at 3pm on the Town Green, weather-permitting.