KATONAH, N.Y. — Earlier than a live performance by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s on a steamy Sunday afternoon right here on the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, a jubilant James Roe, the ensemble’s government director, informed the viewers that these musicians had not introduced a reside, in-person efficiency in 472 days.
This return meant greater than a mere go to from a Caramoor fixture. In latest months I’ve attended orchestral concert events round New York Metropolis. However these occasions performed to very restricted, mask-wearing audiences. At Caramoor the capability wasn’t restricted to a mere 150 or so folks. Hardly any of the 400 folks in attendance wore masks (solely the unvaccinated have been requested to take action).
It felt like an actual return to regular for classical music.
With its bucolic grounds and open-air Venetian Theater, the place most packages are being introduced, Caramoor is a perfect venue for summer season concert events, particularly throughout this still-challenging time. And it has deliberate an adventurous summer season season, operating by way of Aug. 8. This Orchestra of St. Luke’s program was carried out by Tito Muñoz, the Queens-born music director of the Phoenix Symphony, and supplied works that spoke to the bigger social problems with the previous 12 months.
The afternoon started with the premiere of Valerie Coleman’s “Fanfare for Unusual Occasions.” The thought for the piece, as Coleman defined lately in a video interview on the Caramoor web site, got here from Roe, who invited her to jot down a chunk that grappled not simply with the pandemic, however the tumultuous “political panorama,” as she put it.
But, hanging over each American composer who writes a fanfare, Coleman mentioned, is Aaron Copland’s iconic 1942 “Fanfare for the Frequent Man.” In an impressed thought, this 75-minute program, after opening with Coleman’s fanfare, ended with Copland’s, and included, within the center, Joan Tower’s plucky “Fanfare for the Unusual Lady” (1987). In a nod to Copland and Tower, Coleman additionally scored her piece for brass and percussion.
But, whereas writing one thing that supplied affirmation to folks rising from unimaginably “unusual occasions,” Coleman mentioned, as a Black girl she wished to “deliver the Black expertise in,” the “turmoil, the upheaval,” the complexity of latest conversations about race in America.
These threads — and the feelings entwined with them — come by way of vividly in Coleman’s six-minute piece. It begins not with a typical fanfare salute, however a quizzical, looking out line for solo trombone that quickly is cushioned by pungent, soft-spoken brass chords. Unrest amid willpower stirs because the music shifts into agitated episodes for percussion. The temper appears directly reflective and stressed, uplifting and ominous. The weather of the Black expertise throughout a difficult time that Coleman described come by way of throughout a passage alive with riffs for mallet percussion devices, hints of dance and bursts of anxious frenzy. By the top, with spurts of four-note brass motifs, echoes of Coplandesque affirmation come up, but in addition a breathless flurry that feels bracing but difficult.
It made for a surprisingly good distinction to comply with the Coleman with Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “The Lark Ascending,” a “romance,” because the composer described it, for violin and orchestra, with the excellent Tai Murray as soloist. This glowing, pastoral, considerably bittersweet piece is enormously in style, but it surely doesn’t flip up as typically because it ought to in concert events. Murray’s taking part in abounded in radiant sound, arching lyricism and delicacy. Throughout moments when the violin writing turns intricate with evocations of fluttering birds she dispatched the passagework with easy grace.
Tower’s brief, feisty “Fanfare for the Unusual Lady,” devoted to the pioneering female conductor Marin Alsop, the outgoing director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, is the primary in a sequence of six such fanfares she has written. This brief however packed, muscular piece is sort of a respectful retort to Copland.
Muñoz then led a chic account of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” Suite, capturing the melancholy of the music whereas letting the gamers lower free in dancing, near-frantic episodes. And Copland’s fanfare on today proved the becoming conclusion: a method to usher in a second that alerts a return in additional methods than one.
The pageant continues by way of Aug. 8 in Katonah, N.Y.; caramoor.org.