NORTH BENNINGTON -- Two local orchestras teamed up on Sunday to put on a summer pops concert to benefit the Village School of North Bennington's strings program.
Gerald Lanoue, director of the Music Company Orchestra, which is based out of Burnt Hill, New York, and bassoonist in the Sage City Symphony, which is based at Bennington College, helped bring the two groups together. Lanoue noted that it is often hard to get an entire orchestra together over the summer, because the members are often on vacation, so when SCS President Peter Lawrence approached him asking if they could combine the two groups for the benefit concert, Lanoue readily agreed. "We're here to celebrate America, and to support the Village School," he said.
The resulting 57-person orchestra, conducted by Lanoue, performed a series of Americana pieces. The concert was completely free and open to the public, but volunteers with buckets asked each concert-goer to make a donation to the Village School's string program. Founded 25 years ago by SCS viola player Cathy Hall-Schor, the school's strings program (which refers to orchestral string instruments, such as the violin or the cello) is one of only six in the state. Perri Morris, who also plays cello in SCS, took over the program five years ago. "This is the talent that these kids have to learn from," said Lanoue, "To have students come to school, get an instrument, learn to play it, at no cost, is incredible." According to Lanoue, 25 percent of VSNB students now play a stringed instrument.
The concert began with the "Star-Spangled Banner" and John Philip Sousa's famous "Washington Post March." The concert deviated a little from traditional summer concert fare at this point, with Morton Gould's "American Salute," which was based on variations on the melody of the traditional song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home," and "An American Elegy," written by University of Southern California professor Frank Ticheli in memory of those who lost their lives at the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.
The concert also included Aaron Copland's "Buckaroo Holiday," selections from "Oklahoma" by Richard Rogers, and two medleys, one of songs from the 1920's and other of songs from classic films.
The orchestra also played "Armed Forces Salute," arranged by Bob Lowden, which included the songs of each branch of the armed forces. Lanoue asked veterans in the audience to stand and be recognized when they heard their branch's song. Each veteran received a long round of applause when their time came to be honored. The concert was concluded similarly to how it began, with a Sousa march, this time perhaps his most famous, "Stars and Stripes Forever."
The donations had not been counted by the end of the concert, in fact, as people headed back to their cars, many were still putting money into the buckets, all of which were mostly full. The concert was also sponsored by the Bank of Bennington and NSK.
Lanoue made a specific point to thank the members of the combined orchestra, who had only had three rehearsals, one last Monday, one on Saturday, and one just a few hours before the concert on Sunday. "They came out because we asked," he said, "and because they want to support the school."
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB