Winter is the season when the Hudson Valley’s many hardworking and talented small classical ensembles tend to emerge from the shadows and make their presence known. There’s something about ancient holiday traditions like Yule, Hanukkah and Christmas that tugs at our atavistic urges and makes the thought of getting immersed to music that was composed long before the era of the iPod seem irresistibly appealing. If you haven’t yet shoehorned some such group’s winter concert into your busy holiday-season schedule, you might want to consider the Esopus Chamber Orchestra’s performance titled “A Celebration of Seasons,” which will take place on Saturday, December 22 at SUNY-Ulster in Stone Ridge.
In a region peppered with knots of excellent artists toiling away for little or no recompense in the vineyards of classical music, some of them together for many decades, the Esopus Chamber Orchestra (ECO) is the intriguing new kid on the block. Founded just three years ago by the young Canadian conductor/violinist Nadège Foofat, ECO’s profile suggests a refreshing eclecticism of approach. Its Board of Advisors includes such musical luminaries as modernist composer George Tsontakis and that maven of wind instruments of many cultures, Steve Gorn. Among its talented roster of musicians, perhaps the most widely recognized name is that of crossover artist Abby Newton: the “folkie cellist” known for her long association with fiddler Jay Ungar and as accompanist to traditional Scottish singer Jean Redpath.
Surely, from such a diverse conglomeration of musical minds can be expected…the unexpected. Even ECO’s mission statement departs from the usual aesthetic pabulum: Besides “a desire to explore beyond the boundaries of a traditional chamber orchestra” and “the belief that we can effect positive change in society,” it specifically “links music, history and art to provide a transformative chamber concert experience of rarely heard music and well-known masterpieces.”
So a “typical” ECO concert, if there is such a thing, will be thematically unified around the musical contemplation of great works of visual art, and such is certainly true of “A Celebration of Seasons.” The program will include Ottorino Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano, inspired by a famous triptych of Botticelli paintings that hang in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy: Allegory of Spring, Birth of Venus and Adoration of the Magi. Respighi’s treatment of the latter ties in nicely to the current season, with its variations on the Christmas hymn “O Come, O Come Emanuel.”
At SUNY-Ulster, ECO will also perform the Siegfried Idyll: music that Richard Wagner wrote as a Christmas gift for his wife to celebrate the birth of their son; and Antonio Vivaldi’s beloved Baroque masterpiece The Four Seasons, consisting of four separate violin concerti depicting “Spring,” “Summer,” “Autumn” and “Winter.” Apropos as it may be on the evening after the Solstice to contemplate the season newly arrived, surely it can’t hurt also to be reminded this time of year of Shelley’s hopeful poetical question, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”
ECO’s “A Celebration of Seasons” concert will begin at 8 p.m. Admission prices are $30 for Orchestra seating, $25 for Mezzanine seating and $15 in advance for students with ID; $10 student rush seats will go on sale at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at www.esopuschamberorchestra.com/tickets.cfm or at the box office before the concert, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
“A Celebration of Seasons,” Esopus Chamber Orchestra, Saturday, December 22, 8 p.m., $30/$25/$15/$10, Quimby Theater, SUNY-Ulster, 491 Cottekill Road, Stone Ridge, (845) 377-3566, www.esopuschamberorchestra.com/tickets.cfm.