Chamber Orchestra Ogden will present “Music for a Socially Distanced and Masked Orchestra” this Saturday, its third and final installment in a series that highlights each of four orchestra sections separately, in a one-hour concert at Peery’s Egyptian Theater.
If you’ve been to an Imagine Ballet Theatre or Ogden Musical Theatre production at Peery’s, strolled through Farmers Market Ogden or sat on the grass at the Ogden Amphitheater in the summer to hear your favorite movie theme songs, you’ve experienced Ogden’s own chamber orchestra.
Since 2011, Chamber Orchestra Ogden (COO) has worked to provide professional-level classical music that is accessible, affordable and enjoyable to the Ogden community. Students ages 8-18 as well as veterans, active military and their families are admitted without charge to all COO concerts, and tickets are low-priced at $8.
“If classical music is going to survive, it needs an audience,” said Michael Palumbo, COO music director, conductor and founder.
In an effort to engage people of all ages with classical music, Palumbo says the chamber orchestra chooses selections that are recognizable, or at least interesting enough to engage even young audiences. “When we get kids, we don’t want to play something so lugubrious and heavy that the snoring drowns out the audience,” he said.
Sometimes they’ll sneak in newer contemporary pieces, but Palumbo keeps all of them short lest people get too antsy. On Saturday, the strings section will perform Johann Pachelbel’s well-known Canon and Gigue in D. “Even if you don’t know it, you know it,” he said.
The woodwinds will open with Richard Strauss’ “Serenade for 13 Winds,” Op. 7, a beautiful and difficult piece to play. “It’s written in the 20th century but you would never consider it to be a hard-to-listen-to piece. … It’s fun, bouncy and jolly,” Palumbo said.
A chamber orchestra is smaller than a symphony orchestra, according to the COO website, with around 50 players, rather than a modern symphony which has up to 100. Orchestras, including COO, are generally divided into four sections: strings (violins, violas, cellos, basses), woodwinds (flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons), brass (trumpets, horns) and percussion (tympani, snare drum, cymbals, marimba). For safety precautions during COVID-19, each section performs separately.
Years ago, as the former director of orchestral studies and professor of viola at Weber State University for 31 years, Palumbo had started thinking about what he would do for music upon his planned retirement in 2013. He was invited by Ogden Downtown Alliance in 2010 to get a group together to play a concert at the Farmers Market Ogden, which he did with some fellow alumni. When they complained about not having a place to play music, he thought, “Why don’t I start an orchestra?”
They started at Browning Auditorium at Union Station in 2011 and have played mostly at Peery’s for regular season concerts and the annual Untamed Pops concert at the Ogden Amphitheater in the summer, in addition to accompanying other theater productions from the orchestra pit at the Egyptian.
“We try to work with a lot of different people,” Palumbo said. “We don’t want to be a group of just classical musicians who don’t do anything else.”
Palumbo says his musical tastes are broad. While he admits that classical music is his favorite genre overall, he also loves jazz and rock. ”There isn’t much music I don’t like.”
After taking violin lessons as a young kid, he progressed and stayed with music throughout his life. He also likes to play music in bars with some of the local bands and has joined with musicians Dan Weldon, Korene Greenwood, Joe McQueen and more. He had plans to play with The Proper Way before COVID-19 and still hopes to play with them once it’s safe to perform.
Once again, there will be spacing considerations in the auditorium for Saturday’s one-hour concert, and masks will be required the entire time.
“We are so indebted to RAMP and Ogden City and other foundations for providing the money for us so we can exist,” Palumbo said. As always, COO wishes to recognize the Egyptian Theater for its in-kind support of the orchestra’s concerts in this venue.
Finished for the season, Palumbo says COO won’t play again until July 17 for the annual Untamed Pops concert at the Ogden Amphitheater. “I’m hoping we’ll have the whole orchestra back on stage.”
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