The theme of this season’s Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO) concerts, at Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, is “Abracadabra! Experience Musical Magic” and, in the orchestra’s February 6 QUOtets chamber music concert, its ninth such effort, the musicians further enchanted listeners lyrically. The maestro and curator for QUOtets IX was QUO Assistant Conductor Ian Shafer.
Shafer opened the program with John Alfieri’s upbeat and up-tempo “Fanfare for Tambourines,” an unusual and entertaining way to begin, with a tambourine sextet, consisting of Clint Arndt, Sean Foradori, Andrew Berman, Brent Reno, Álvaro Rodas, and George Gehring, playing in succession, as an ensemble, and in counterpoint to each other, reveled in shaking and/or striking their instruments, with finger, palm, or drumsticks, and there was drum participation as well. For “Dark Horse,” played by Jenn Forese on flute, Christian Smythe on oboe, Fran Novak on clarinet, Brandon Travan on French horn, and Charlie Scatamacchia on bassoon, Smythe arranged themes by the likes of pop singer-songwriters Katy Perry and Sarah Hudson into a satisfying suite of classical variations. Mark O’Connor’s “Appalachia Waltz,” with violinists Nick Johnson and Reyenne Schiowitz, proved sentimental and rustic-sounding. QUO Artistic Director Maestra Julie Desbordes and Ron Nahass on trumpet, Kyle Walker on French horn, Jason Svatek on trombone, and Dan Perry on tuba collaborated on a refined Sonata for Two Trumpets and Brass, by Henry Purcell, in Fred Mills’ arrangement, made up of a bright, fanfare-like Maestoso first movement; somber Adagio, as dignified as a funeral march; and festive Presto finale.
Berman, on vibraphone, offered an ethereal account of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Prelude in C Major, BWV 846, best known to singers as the melody underpinning Charles Gounod’s “Ave Maria” setting. Two haunting pieces followed. Aaron Copland’s evocative “Quiet City,” played by Matthew Hadley on English horn, Gehring on trumpet, and Smythe at the piano, caused one to contemplate when the streets of our own city might be that peaceful—pre-dawn, dawn, and post-dawn, the time between last call and morning rush hour? There were muted hints of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” in Gehring’s contribution. Violist Andrew Holland and pianist Smythe then played a quietly mournful “Elegy for Viola and Piano,” Opus 44, of Alexander Glazunov.
Violinist Lorenzo Espiritu, cellist Bjorn Berkhout, and pianist Ligia Mae Sakurai joined forces for a stirring lyric, classically-sculpted Allegro vivace e con brio first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Trio in D major, Opus 70 Number One “Ghost.” The Manhattan Saxophone Quartet, comprising Drs. Jordan Smith and Aaron Patterson, on soprano and alto saxophone respectively; Daniel Kochersberger on tenor saxophone; and Jay Rattman on baritone saxophone, delivered a spirited, propulsive, and precise “Quatuor pour Saxophone,” of Alfred Desenclos. Oboist Cory Snoddy, clarinetist Novak, alto saxophonist Ben Solis, bassoonist Darcy Leon, and bass clarinetist Emily Pecoraro gave us George Gershwin’s Three Preludes, in Ryan Reynolds’ arrangement, beginning with an Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, marked by jazzy city sounds and beat; continuing with a leisurely loping Andante con moto e poco rubato; and climaxing with a determined, driven Allegro ben ritmato e deciso, which ended most abruptly. QUOtets IX’s grand finale was birthday celebrant Seth Bedford’s “Bronx Suite for Strings,” with Shafer guiding violinists Alva Bostick, Thomas Lai, Suzanne Lipkin, Jarred Small, and Johnson and Schiowitz; violists Bedford and Holland; cellists Kurt Behnke and Bryanne Pashley; and bassist Adrienne Lloyd in a Prelude—allegro deciso—creating anticipation; a Waltz—andantino. Dolce e poco misterioso—with strains of the supernatural, a dance with spectral beings; a larghetto Interlude and andante moderato con grazia Gavotte—the Bronx conceals dark mysteries and discloses graceful beauties as well—with a pizzicato, serenade-like conclusion; and an allegro Milonga, a gentle Latin American tango.
Hear Queer Urban Orchestra in “Alakazam!,” with composer James Adler as guest soloist for his Concerto in G for Piano and Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Symphony Number Eight; Gabriel Fauré’s “Pelléas et Mélisande; and Felix Mendelssohn’s “Fair Melusina,” on April 16 at 8 p.m.; another QUOtet Chamber Concert, on May 14 at 8 p.m.; and “Spellbound: Pride Gay-La,” on June 25 at 8 p.m. For information and tickets—$20 general admission, $15 advance sale, or $10 for students and seniors—visit www.queerurbanorchestra.org
or telephone 646/233-4113. Church of the Holy Apostles is located at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street.