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A dream comes true

Roswell Symphony Orchestra music director John Farrer, center left, next to the podium, and the orchestra enjoy a standing ovation and thundering applause after their performance at the RSO and Roswell Jazz Festival’s collaborative concert on Saturday evening. (Christina Stock Photo)

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James E. Shearer was among the musicians performing during the Roswell Jazz Festival section of the Roswell Symphony Orchestra and RJF collaborative concert on Saturday evening at Pearson Auditorium. (Christina Stock Photo)

Roswell Symphony Orchestra, Roswell Jazz Festival collaboration a success

Saturday evening’s concert featuring the Roswell Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and musicians of the Roswell Jazz Festival (RJF) had a historic significance.

It was the first time the giants of Roswell’s music scene collaborated, coming together for a unique experience at the Pearson Auditorium on the New Mexico Military Institute (NMMI) grounds — a dream come true for RJF artistic director Michael Francis, who was performing on piano.

The program was filled with the music of American composers and was presented by Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh, dressed in a tuxedo, as master of ceremonies. After welcoming the audience, Kintigh introduced some changes to the program — the jazz musicians would perform after intermission, not before the intermission as planned. The reasoning became clear when the audience saw the large grand piano being rolled in. It would not have been efficient otherwise.

The RSO musicians, under the guidance of their music director Maestro John Farrer, astounded the audience with passionate performances of the masters of American music, such as Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin.

When the first tunes of Bernstein’s musical, “West Side Story,” filled the air, it was not clear who was more excited — the RSO musicians or the audience. When the flowing sequence of the iconic tunes reached a final crescendo, the Pearson Auditorium echoed with thundering applause and a standing ovation followed. This was also the case after RSO’s medley of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess — A Symphonic Picture.”

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During the intermission, while NMMI cadets and musicians helped set up for RJF’s selections, positive comments were heard, such as those from Carol Schlatter. “Wasn’t that great?” she said. Carole Schlatter and her husband, the late Frank Schlatter, had opened their home to legendary jazz pianist and Pulitzer Prize nominee Roger Dickerson when he was looking for a place to stay after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. This act of kindness prompted the first RJF in 2006, to help the victims of the hurricane.

After the intermission, RSO board president Sue Chiodini and Kintigh announced Francis with his RJF friends.

Francis talked about the honor of being on stage with the RSO. After introducing the RJF musicians, he joked about the first song selection. “It’s Beethoven,” he said. “Well, if Beethoven wrote the ‘Seventh Symphony’ after his eighth or ninth coffee.” The description was rewarded with laughter from the audience, and then applause and a standing ovation after the last note ended.

One could tell that the audience was made up of orchestra and jazz connoisseurs, as they knew exactly when to break out in applause. While they waited when a crescendo alerted them that the orchestra piece was done, they gave applause after each well-performed instrument segment within each of the jazz songs — a unique trait of the genre.

Each song was introduced by either Francis or another of the RJF musicians, such as James E. Shearer, who amazed the audience not only with his flawless mastering of the tuba, but showed off his voice talent that resembled Louis Armstrong.

The biggest highlight was when the RSO string musicians came out to perform with RJF’s musicians in a special arrangement by renowned arranger Marty Sheller. The RSO string musicians followed the piano, played by Francis, without the need of a conductor, which showed the quality of these experienced musicians. There were smiles on each artist’s face when the performance of “Calcutta Cutie” ended and the audience started cheering.

The few empty seats during the performance were those for the orchestra musicians and family members of the musicians, who — after the intermission — became audience members themselves to enjoy the jazz performance.

During the event future concerts were mentioned, which included the grand finale of RSO’s 60th season honoring its benefactor Don Anderson, who is celebrating his100th birthday. As a first, the orchestra will perform Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9, Ode To Joy,” on April 18.

The next chance the audience has to hear RJF musicians will be March 12, which will benefit the 15th annual RJF in October.

For more information, visit roswellsymphonyorchestra.org or roswelljazz.org. All events mentioned will be previewed in a future Sunday edition of the Roswell Daily Record.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.

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