Written Music Notation, retro notes

For those craving symphonic music, North Valley Symphony Orchestra has just the recipe.

For the second time since the pandemic began, the orchestra is preparing live recordings of small groups to present at 9 a.m. Wednesdays through May 19. This time, audiences can enjoy free presentations celebrating Beethoven’s 250th birthday, sea shanties, a French trio and a brass quintet. 

For the first time since the shutdown, the string orchestra will perform Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Novelleten, Op. 52” for string orchestra, tambourine and triangle.

Maestro Kevin Kozacek, the music director and conductor of the North Valley Symphony Orchestra, said they recorded these performances to give the adults the chance to perform. 

“We broke adults into small chamber groups, nothing more than eight people so we could find venues to rehearse,” Kozacek said about homes and church halls.

“We used those to rehearse and then arranged for a recording day.”

The first series went well, and they began planning for the second. With vaccinations happening, the orchestra decided to arrange a string orchestra for one of the midweek melody offerings. 

“The big problem with orchestras, choirs and bands is the aerosol produced by blowing into instruments,” Kozacek said. “The aerosol builds up in the room and you really have problems mitigating that. We felt very comfortable doing a string orchestra, limiting the size to 6-foot spacing.”

String players can wear masks while performing. The first series proved popular with some groups getting more than 350 views. They’ve also received warm compliments from audience members who said they’ve loved seeing performances again.

The series, Kozacek says, is the organization’s way of giving back to the community.

“We offer them for people to tune in and have a midweek melody to uplift their spirits and let them know we’re thinking about them,” Kozacek says. “We’re continuing to do things in preparation for next year and we’ll very hopefully be back for our concert series starting in October or so. We like to do this. We enjoy getting together and being able to provide things for our community.”

Midweek performance schedule

Each performance is 7 minutes to 18 minutes.

The series this time around includes:

April 21: Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “Novelletten, Op. 52, Nos. 1-4,” written in 1901 and 1902. It will be performed by 13 violinists, five viola players, three cellists, two contrabass players and two percussionists.

April 28: Victor Ewald’s “Brass Quintet No 1, Op 5,” the earliest known piece of concert music specifically written for a  brass quintet by an amateur cellist and hornist who was born in Russia in 1860. The performers are Trint Castle, trumpet, Teddi English, trumpet, Philip Johnson, horn, Blake Castle, trombone and Mike Burt, tuba

May 5: Jacques Ibert’s “Cinq pieces en trio,” written by the French composer who lived from 1890 to 1962. The title, which translates to “Five Pieces for Trio,” was composed in 1935. Each piece lasts for one to three minutes each. The performers are Suzanne Johnsen, oboe, Annemarie Strzelecki, clarinet and Michelle Horowitz, bassoon.

May 12: Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Piano Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11,” written in 1797 as a light cheerful piece that featured a clarinet instead of a violin. It is sometimes referred to as the “Gassenhauer Trio,” which means “alley song,” because the third movement is based on a popular tune that was being sung and whistled in the streets of Vienna at that time. The performers are Strzelecki, clarinet, Mark Pyle, cello and Lillian Coulter, piano.

May 19: “Sea Shanties, Suite for Horn Quartet,” arranged by Don Abernathy. Shanties were the work songs used to coordinate sailors as they performed heavy manual tasks. The arrangement includes four well-known shanties, “Blow the Man Down,” “Shenandoah,” “Sailor’s Hornpipe” and “What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?” The performers are Philip Johnson, Steve Thomasson, Anita Murray and Chris Clark.

Videos will be posted on their YouTube channel on the day of performance and remain up for at least a year.

Putting it together

All performances were put together in collaboration with the orchestra. Kozacek said he asked members to submit a piece they’ve always wanted to do. Once he chose the pieces, he sent out requests for who wanted to perform in them.

“I spent quite a few long days trying to figure out what was the best mix of repertoire that people said they would like to do and would involve the most number of members in our organization that were able to do this,” Kozacek said. 

The musicians began rehearsing in January and then recorded in late March. Kozacek gives a short introduction to each piece before they are performed. He said they run about 2 minutes and give people a general idea of the music.

While the concerts are free, patrons are encouraged to donate via the website to help the orchestra continue to pay its bills. 

“For all performing arts, this has been a very difficult time,” Kozacek said. “Though there have been some grants and opportunities to get government reimbursement for some of our expenses, we have lost all of our ticket revenue for over 12 months now. We would ask people to consider supporting us or any performing arts organization. We’re all going through the same thing.”