By Geoffrey Maingart
Santa Monica, CA(Hollywood Today)1/22/13/—The SGI Auditorium was the setting for the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday concert with the Santa Monica Symphony conducted by Guido Lamell. He was joined in the concert by the brilliant baritone soloist, Ralph Cato, in a special program honoring the great civil rights leader.
The program opened with a riveting performance of the Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland. Written for brass and percussion, the performance was truly electrifying. It was almost sad to be indoors on such a beautiful day in Santa Monica, but the audience was certainly not disappointed.
Second on the program were 3 Spirituals for Orchestra by the modern African American composer Adolphus Hailstork
The spirituals, “Everytime I Feel the Spirit,” “Kum Ba Yah,“ and “Oh Freedom” were rendered in a masterful orchestration allowing Guido and the Orchestra the chance to show the many styles of this fine composer.
Ralph Cato joined the orchestra in a performance of “I Have a Dream” set to music by Lee Hoiby. The work is a testament to life experience and both Hoiby and King suffered in their own personal journeys. It is a very challenging piece for the ensemble and Cato was remarkable both in learning the piece in a very short amount of time and while recovering from a cold at the time. The words from the speech are of course monumental and Hoiby even brings in his own version of My Country Tis of Thee in the orchestration.
Last on the program was the famous Symphony #9 in e minor by Antonín Dvořák. The orchestra under Guido was exciting and brilliant throughout the performance. The choice of this symphony was ideal for the program as the concert was truly about America and the meaning of being a free American. The composer did consider this his home away from home and Guido added to the performance by inviting Ralph Cato to sing a poem written by Guido about his impression of the thoughts of Dvořák and his feelings for America. This replaced the traditional famous English horn solo from the 2nd movement Largo. It was a very moving moment in the performance. Following the exciting finale of the concert the audience was on its feet in a standing ovation for a great concert.
Guido introduced each work in his always delightful, humorous and personable style. He also read the poem that he wrote for the Largo before the performance. It will hopefully be performed in future concerts by many ensembles. The next scheduled performance of the Santa Monica Symphony will be on May 25th at the Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica and will be a tribute to that hall before we lose the building. The orchestra has performed there for 68 years.