Call it an experiment in conducting: Each of the four concerts in the current season of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra (WCO) – its 33rd – has featured a different conductor, one of whom will be chosen as the musical organization’s next in-house conductor. It’s a situation that the orchestra has embraced with enthusiasm, said WCO president Greg Dinger. “Even if an orchestra likes the [in-house] conductor, at times they get tired. It’s the same schtik.”
The third concert of the season, which be performed March 2 at Bard College and March 4 at the Woodstock Playhouse, will feature conductor Nathan Madsen. Madsen is traveling across half the continent for the gig: He’s currently assistant conductor of the Lubbock Symphony Orchestra in Lubbock, Texas and principal guest conductor of the Southwest Symphony Orchestra in St. George, Utah. However, in a sense he’s returning home, having previously served as the music director for the Bard College Orchestra. Madsen also was a guest conductor with the WCO several seasons ago, although this is his first full concert with the orchestra.
Madsen will be conducting Mozart’s Symphony No. 32 in D Major (known as the “Paris”); the Schumann Cello Concerto, featuring WCO principal cellist Ling Kwan; Beethoven’s overture to The Creatures of Prometheus; Leopold Stokowski’s orchestral arrangement of the aria “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Bach’s Cantata No. 208; and Canadian composer Pierre Jalbert’s Les Espaces Infinis. Dinger noted that cellist Kwan is a “terrific soloist. She’s one of the best in the area.” He said that the WCO alternatively features soloists from its own ranks and commissioned from the outside.
Performances take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 2 at Bard College’s Olin Hall and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 4 at the recently renovated Woodstock Playhouse, at the intersection of Routes 212 and 375 in Woodstock. Tickets cost $20 for adults and $5 for students.
Madsen will be followed by guest conductor Teresa Cheung in the final concert of the series, held on April 20 and 22. Cheung is currently the conductor at the Bard College Orchestra. She’ll lead the orchestra in George Frederic Handel’s Concerto for Oboe No. 3, featuring WCO principal oboist Alison Bitz, along with Mozart’s “Linz” Symphony No. 36 in C Major.
The two other guest conductors, who conducted the first two concerts in the series last fall, are Marissa Kaczinski, who is based in Poughkeepsie, and Miriam Burns, based on New York City. One of the four will be chosen as WCO’s conductor following the spring concert.
“There are plenty of conductors,” Dinger said. “It’s a question of who’s willing to work for the small wages we pay. Most of these people have several other jobs.” In the past, WCO conductors have either been based in the mid-Hudson Valley or commuted from the City (as was the case with the last conductor, David Leighton, whose term was completed last spring). Dinger said that the new conductor would likely conduct a season and then be signed to a three- or four-year contract.
Formed in 1981 by local musicians, the WCO is now comprised of professional musicians from the entire region. Besides the classical greats, it performs music by local and regional composers. Call (845) 679-6431 or visit www.wco-online.com for more information and updates.