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Posts Tagged ‘boosters’

The holiday concert last Saturday deserves its own post.

I learned about the Melrose Symphony Orchestra, the oldest continuous volunteer orchestra in the country, because my friend Alden began playing the oboe there a year or so ago and loves it. Saturday was the first time we got to a performance, and we were amazed by the whole scene.

Memorial Hall, remarkable for its size and its caryatid-supported honorary box, must have had a thousand people in it. It seemed like everyone of every age in Melrose had come, and a look at the program suggested that every business in town was a supporter.

The website says that “the mission of the Melrose Symphony is to give the citizens of Melrose and surrounding area an opportunity to participate in the joy of music.”

The conductor, Yoichi Udagawa, is determined to make classical music fun and accessible to all. He is not only an excellent musician but a real showman, drawing applause from audience members who have attended before as soon as he said he was going to tell a joke.

Alden told us the orchestra provides scholarships for high school students who often join up again after college. And he explained that the kids who were walking around before the performance and in the intermissions selling tickets were raising money by giving audience members a chance to conduct the last number, a jingle bell sing-along.

We also had music from Grieg and Vaughn Williams, so it wasn’t 100% holiday. But the guest star, Renese King, sang Gospel music with two talented nieces, a backup group, and a lovely young woman who danced sign language — and that really got everyone in the spirit of the season.

I have to say, I have lived in New England 30 years and have never seen a whole community rally around a cultural institution to this extent. Melrose must have a secret formula. I’d like to know what’s in the water.

Photograph: Melrose Symphony Orchestra

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