Symphony in the Valley plays Beethoven this weekend
Symphony in the Valley is performing its first concert since the pandemic.
Beethoven’s 250th Birthday! takes place at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday at New Hope Church in New Castle.
Admittedly, it’s a little early. Beethoven was born on or before Dec. 16, 1770. But you’re only 250 once, so why not start the celebration early?
The program includes Piano Concerto No. 4, featuring pianist Amanda Gessler of Carbondale; the Egmont Overture; and a few interludes, including a flute trio, Symphony in the Valley manager Amanda Watkins said.
The symphony has performed Egmont before, Watkins said, but the piano concerto is new.
It’s also the first time Gessler has played the concerto for an audience.
“I’ve never performed it. I learned it about 10 years ago, but there are various levels to learning a piece. I didn’t learn it very deeply back then, so I’ve had to really get at it this year,” she said.
Gessler’s website (amandagessler.com) says she enjoys a special connection with the music of Beethoven. That started when a 9-year-old Gessler got bored with her lesson book and wanted to quit playing piano. In response her teacher played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” for her, and something clicked.
“It really captured me. I remember that moment like it was yesterday,” Gessler said.
Gessler will play cello during the Egmont Overture. She’s been playing cello since her youth as well.
“In an alternate reality I’m a cellist. I’m still in love with it,” she said.
About 25 of the symphony’s usual 60 members were interested in playing under COVID restrictions, Watkins said.
Social distancing will be practiced with the audience as well as the symphony.
“The wind instruments will be on stage at the back, as far back as possible, then we’ll have the pianist, conductor and strings down on the floor,” Watkins said.
Watkins said there is plenty of room to spread out at New Hope Church, which has a capacity of 600 people. Due to restrictions, the event is limited to 175 people, 25 of which are performing.
“We want people to come, but we want to be very clear that we are going to be distancing, the musicians will wear masks when they’re not playing, the strings will have masks on the entire time, and the wind players will be very far removed from the audience,” Watkins said.
The evenings are not sold out yet, and Watkins encourages people to buy tickets online at sitv.org.
“This has been really hard on orchestras and musical groups all over the world, and we’d really love support from the community if people want to be a sponsor. Everything’s on our website for different types of sponsorships,” she said.
Watkins sees some parallels between’s Beethoven’s struggles with going deaf and what society as a whole is experiencing during the pandemic.
“I think it’s good to mention the parallel between Beethoven’s life and his struggles with going deaf and trying to hide the fact that he was losing his hearing with what society’s going through now with COVID,” she said.
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