Entertainment Lifestyle

West Hartford Symphony Returns with Free Outdoor Concert

Courtesy West Hartford Symphony Orchestra

The West Hartford Symphony Orchestra will perform live and in person on June 5.

By Ronni Newton

Nearly 15 months after their last rehearsal, members of the West Hartford Symphony Orchestra will be making music together again – actual live music, in the same place, at the same time.

WHSO Music Director Richard Chiarappa said he’s been in touch with members of the orchestra, holding Zoom calls with different sections, keeping them encouraged over the past 15 months, but there hasn’t been any opportunity to practice together.

“Some put their instruments in the case and kept it in the closet,” Chiarappa said. “There was no goal to aim for, not purpose.”

Other orchestra members have been providing music as a community service whenever possible.

Like the rest of us, the West Hartford Symphony is emerging from the depths of COVID-19, and after discussions with the West Hartford Arts & Culture Collaborative has decided to present a free outdoor concert.

The concert will be held in front of West Hartford Town Hall (area near the flagpoles), on Saturday, June 5, beginning at 4 p.m. The rain date is June 13.

It’s a “Tanglewood-style” event, Chiarappa said, so guests are asked to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets. The concert will last roughly 60-75 minutes, and Chiarappa said the time was chosen so people could go out to lunch in advance and then come enjoy the music, or go out for dinner afterward.

The music chosen included pieces that the WHSO has performed throughout the years. “Nothing too difficult, or too heavy for the audience,” Chiarappa said. Selections will include movie music from “Jurassic Park,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and “Somewhere in Time” by composers John Williams and John Barry. Broadway music from “Les Miserables” will feature tenor Steve Mitchell.  There will be additional music by Henry Mancini as well as patriotic music by John Philip Sousa, along with a concert setting of Samuel Ward’s “America the Beautiful.”

A majority of the WHSO’s previous members are planning to participate, and Chiarappa said many saw each other for the first time recently when they picked up their music for the concert at the New Old School of Music on New Park Avenue. They’ve been asked to practice on their own, and the only opportunity to rehearse together will be for a few hours the day of the concert.

The WHSO will continue to monitor and comply with safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Town of West Hartford, and the state regarding wearing masks. Most members of the symphony are vaccinated, Chiarappa said, but there will be some accommodations for the musicians, such as not sharing stands.

When COVID forced the WHSO to pause operations in March 2020, “We were right on the cusp of a great concert,” Chiarappa said. “On March 11 [2020], our rehearsal was showing up with your music and turning it in.”

They were also planning a performance for the town’s third graders held traditionally before they select the instruments they would like to play in elementary school.

Instead, some members of the orchestra created clever videos that are posted on their website to provide an inside look at playing various instruments.

Chiarappa and the WHSO Board of Directors is excited for the opportunity to perform again.

“We want to let the town know that the symphony’s alive,” Chiarappa said. “Let’s get out in the sunshine and enjoy some live music.”

Chiarappa doesn’t anticipate any other outdoor concerts this summer, but is ready to get back to work for a full 19th season in the fall.

Anyone willing to volunteer to help at the concert should contact the orchestra at [email protected].

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