September 28, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Nashua's symphonic gem
By†Jeff Rapsis

Nashua might not be Vienna or Amsterdam. But that doesnít mean classical music canít play an important part in the Gate Cityís cultural life.

That doesnít happen, however, by just having a bunch of musicians saw their way through the classics and then go home. For a symphony orchestra to flourish in a relatively small city such as Nashua, there needs to be outreach, creative programming, and efforts to involve the many non-symphony-goers out there.

Happily, thatís been the case lately at the Nashua Symphony, where thereís been a willingness to try new things and collaborate with local groups and musicians. Under the leadership of executive director Eric Valliere, the group is turning into one of the most adventurous community orchestras anywhere.

And by anywhere, I donít mean just the region. I mean anywhere. Search the nation and beyond, and youíll be hard-pressed to find a community orchestra based in a city the size of Nashua (under 100,000 people) doing the kinds of things the Nashua Symphony is doing.

First, they walk the walk. Under conductor Royston Nash, now entering his 21st and final season leading the group, the musicians continue to tackle classic scores, including some biggies not often heard in these parts. One example: Rachmaninoffís sprawling Piano Concerto No. 2, coming up in February.

The outreach goes further this season. Opening night this past Saturday saw a concert that brought together the symphony, local jazz vocalist Wendee Glick, and Nashuaís Granite Statesmen barbershop harmony chorus.

It was an evening of impressive music-making, all the more compelling because so much of it was made by local people. The barbershop groupies hooted for their guys, but also got to hear the orchestra play. Thatís what helps a symphony become a part of a community, rather than apart from it.

Itís true that the Nashua Symphony, like most regional orchestras, needs to bring in musicians from out of town (including Nash himself) to perform at a certain level. Thatís a reality we canít get around by using high school players.

But it would be a big mistake to entirely wall off the orchestraís artistic endeavors from the community itself, and limit the involvement of local people to fundraising and volunteering.

This happens in a lot of places, and itís a dead end. The community loses connection to the music-making, which is what itís all about in the first place, and an orchestra has constant trouble building and holding an audience.

Thatís not the case in Nashua. In addition to welcoming the Granite Statesman last weekend, the orchestra is working with Nashua High School students to create new works to be performed next March.

And the affiliated Nashua Choral Society (of which I am a proud former member) continues to bring families and friends to performances of works that this season will include Beethovenís monumental Ninth Symphony.

I sang this same piece with the choral society in 1981, and Iíll never forget it. Itís experiences like that that help weave an orchestra into the cultural tapestry of the communityóthat make it matteróand the Nashua Symphony is fortunate to have leadership that understands this.

I hope youíll join me in checking out the Nashua Symphonyís upcoming concerts. For more info, visit www.nashuasymphony.org.