Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

Home Town Orchestra

Posted June 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm

by June LeBell

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OMG! Carnegie Hall celebrated its 120th anniversary tonight and it took me back, so far, I might as well be out on a limb with Shirley MacLaine.

And it wasn’t just me. I married a former manager of the New York Philharmonic so Ed and I, having dinner in front of the TV as we watched “Great Performances” on PBS, starring our mutually shared family from the Philharmonic, felt like we were going to a reunion. So many ghosts. So many new faces. So many old ones.

Hey! There’s Newton, hair white, marble-like, chiseled features, in the first violins with Fiona and Di Cecco (we never called him by his first name), Yoko (trying to hide the kvelling she feels; her son is conducting!), and Glenn Dicterow, long-time concertmaster, who’ll be in Sarasota next season when he and his wife are part of SILL on Music Mondays. Mark still heads the seconds. Cynthia and Rebecca are there in the viola section. So are Irene and Dawn. (I remember a time when Orin, the stalwart bassist, was the only woman in the orchestra. We shared the one and only Ladies’ Room when I was a tour guide and she had to use our facilities because there just wasn’t any other place for females.) Van Benedetti is in the cellos, along with principal, Carter Brey, whom I interviewed on WQXR when he first got that job. Mindy, Sherry and Judith are holding forth in the winds; the two Phils and Joe are brassier than ever (how New York!) and Lionel, Harriet and Jonathan are still around.

New faces with memorable family lines are lined up, too: Christopher Lamb and Daniel Druckman, so young but so familiar.

And then there are the ghosts. Larry Bernsohn’s aura floats among the cellos. So does Dick Simon’s and, going back a bit, George Rabin’s, in the violins. And I still see Roland Kohloff hovering over the timpani. But then, Lenny and Zubin are still on the podium, prodding Alan Gilbert, tickling him, making him smile and, occasionally, jump with joy in making music with this crew.

Ed and I sit, mesmerized by the sound. It’s not what they hear in Carnegie. It’s television and speakers and microphones. But, oh, that New York sound is like no other. Ed says each orchestra has the sound of its city and New York is right there, in your face, brilliant, ever-changing, always reminiscent. Home. Our home.
Yet here we are in Sarasota. Now Dan Jordan, Chris Takeda, Yuri and Matthew, Abe Feder, John Miller, Betsy and Fernando Traba, Adam de Sorgo, Bharat Chandra, Joe Assi and Larry Solowey, Greg and Andy, Jay, Yoko, Keith and Bruce are our family.

Where once we walked down Broadway and bumped into Martin Ormandy, now we walk into Publix for a head of lettuce and meet Joe and Rachel Assi.

It’s music and the love of music that’s brought us together. Yes, the New York Philharmonic will always be our hometown orchestra, our family. But Sarasota has brought us into its circle of music and embraced us with its own special sound. To say Sarasota has the sound of the Gulf of Mexico lapping at the shore is too corny. But this orchestra is also special. It’s young and vibrant, flourishing and growing; nurturing us and helping us, the New York Philharmonic’s ancestors, to live, breathe and thrive.

Do we miss New York? No and yes. We miss our friends but we visit them and they visit us, sometimes via great performances. Yes, occasionally I miss the special New York after parties. Alison and I, 30 years ago, went to Carnegie’s 90th birthday concert and then attended a terrific party at Le Parker Meridien, around the corner. Unforgettable. But the Sarasota Opera and Sarasota Orchestra opening nights parties aren’t bad, either!

How wonderful to know our old friends are still with us. How much better to know there’s a future!

— June LeBell

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