Symphony Kicks Off Fall Outdoor Program with Free Concert at Hygienic on Friday

Kohei Yamaguchi and Jordan Calixto, a Bass Duet performing on Friday, Sept. 18 (Courtesy of ECSO)


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The Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra will kick off a program of outdoor musical performances with a free concert on Friday at Hygienic Art Park in New London.

The orchestra is giving five outdoor musical performances as part of their fall “Soundscape” program.

Rather than full orchestra performances, the organization is opting for a series of smaller performances — ensembles of two to five musicians on strings, woodwind and brass. Their repertoire will range from traditional classical movements to contemporary popular songs. 

The first three events, performed at Hygienic Art Park, will feature violin and cello, a bass duet and clarinet and bassoon. The program also includes a brass quintet performing at Olde Mistick Village and a woodwind quartet and trombone ensemble at Stonington Vineyards. 

Caleb Bailey, the orchestra’s executive director, said that the smaller performances will create a more intimate experience for listeners. He also thinks that they will attract a younger crowd, people who might not ordinarily be willing to pay for tickets to the symphony or sit for two-hour concerts. 

Bess Gaby, executive director of Hygienic Art, agreed that the outdoor concerts would be more accessible to the general public, and could provide a safe way for elderly residents, who are more vulnerable to the virus, to enjoy a public performance.

Gaby also hopes that having the concerts at lunchtime will encourage attendees to patronize local restaurants. She said that the Hygienic will set up outdoor tables so that people can grab takeout and eat while listening to music. 

Rebecca Noreen, one of the Soundscape performers, said she believes that the concerts are even more important for the musicians than they are for the audience. Taking the time and energy to develop their musical craft and then not being able to share it, she said, is “like painting a picture and locking it in a room.” 

Noreen is performing with her husband Jonathan Towne at the Hygienic Art Park on September 25 — she plays bassoon and he plays clarinet. Before joining the orchestra, both spent years playing with the Coast Guard Band. 

Noreen said that she and her husband are lucky — because they were quarantined together and have been able to give small performances outside during the months of the pandemic, particularly at nursing homes. 

Their performance will include three duets from Beethoven, a baroque piece, a rendition of the Big Band-era song “In the Mood,” a piece called “El Simpatico,” which is a cross between Spanish dance and ragtime and an adaptation of “You’re my Best Friend” by Queen, which, she said, works “surprisingly well for clarinet and bassoon.” 

Bailey said the orchestra will be able to pay the musicians for the concerts using funds from corporate sponsors, donors, and grant money. They see this as a way of paying the musicians some of the funding they would have earned in a normal year from symphony performances. 

The following is the list of upcoming Soundscape events:

  • Sept. 11: Violin and Cello duet, Hygienic Art Park at 12 p.m.
  • Sept. 18: Bass duet, Hygienic Art Park at 12 p.m.
  • Sept. 25: Bassoon and Clarinet duet, Hygienic Art Park at 12 p.m.
  • Sept. 26: Brass quintet, Olde Mistick Village at 2 p.m.
  • Oct. 3: Radiance Woodwind Quintet and Trombones of the ECSO, Stonington Vineyards, 4:30 p.m.

Concert at Stonington Vineyards, $20. All other performances are free.

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.