Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 13, 2024

Review: Springfield Chamber Players: "Johnny Appleseed & other Fun Stories"

First Church of Christ, Longmeadow, MA
May 12, 2024
by Lisa Covi

What is a happier childhood memory than a parent curling up with a picture book and being read to in your bed? Mother's Day in Longmeadow amplified that experience by gathering children of all ages at First Church of Christ to listen to three stories set to music (and a symphonic dance) performed by Springfield Chamber Players (formerly MOSSO). The composer and author of one of the selections were also on hand.

I don't ever think I will read or hear Munro Leaf's “Ferdinand, The Bull” again without recalling Marsha Harbison's braying violin playing Alan Rideout's arrangement for this story. Harbison introduced the tale, originally banned by fascists during the Spanish Civil War, as her favorite story. Martin Kluger's melodic voice narrated the tale – it was clear he is a vocalist and actor in addition to his other role as principal tympanist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

Clifton Noble photo by John Crispin
Boris Kogan on cello and Clifton J. Noble, Jr. on piano next performed Camille Sain-Saeen's
“The Swan” from his larger work, “Carnival of the Animals.” The delicacy of this movement inspired Anna Pavlova's trademark interpretative ballet. The piano evoked the surface of the water upon which the cello's swan passes across.

The centerpiece of the afternoon was Clifton J. Noble Jr's arrangement for “Johnny Appleseed: The Legend and the Truth.” The children's choir of the First Church sang catchy interludes to Jane Yolen's story of the Longmeadow native's journey to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Kara Noble narrated and introduced Yolen, who was present at the concert. The audience learned that Johnny Appleseed himself attended church in this very building. Michael Nix on banjo and Ellen Redman on flute joined the other musicians deftly enhancing the tale with original score and echos of American melodies.

The lively and euphonious afternoon drew active local families. Especially enjoyable were the projection of the text of the first piece and illustrations for all during the musical performance. Occasional imbalance of amplification made it sometimes difficult to hear the narration of the latter pieces.

The enthusiasm of the youth performers matched the professional musicians' dexterity. The opportunity for children to participate in the concert made a more impactful introduction to professional chamber music than my experience attending Prokofiev's “Peter and the Wolf.”

MOSSO's series continues with an outdoor concert in Longmeadow on June 13th at 6pm at the Maple Avenue Adult Center.