You could feel the love in the air. And with seventy musicians onstage and 300 people in the audience, that's a whole lot of love on a warm, autumn Sunday afternoon in the Center for the Performing Arts in Dexter High School.
The musicians of the Dexter Community Orchestra aren't paid to play. They're here because they love the music and each other. The folks in the audience don't pay to attend. They're here because they love the music and the musicians. Together, they form a community of amateurs in the truest sense of the word: people who do it not for the money but for the love.
Sure there were some onstage slips. The violins weren't always together above third position. The cellos sometimes blurred in fast passages. A pair of woodwinds went out of tune once for a few bars. Even twenty minutes into the concert, dozens of patrons were still finding their seats. And there always seemed to be a little girl or two for whom the urge to dance proved irresistible.
So what? These were amateurs, and there was love in every note. Mozart's Jupiter Symphony had joy in the opening Allegro, bliss in the Andante cantabile, bounce in the Menuetto, and exhilaration in the closing Molto allegro. Bizet's Carmen Suite no. 1 had fire, sweat, blood, and a big bass drum. Rimsky-Korsakov's Russian Easter Overture had a platoon of percussion, a battalion of brass, and a ravishingly beautiful violin solo from concertmaster Fran Wakefield.
Founder and music director Donald Parrish led the Mozart and the Rimsky-Korsakov with clarity, lucidity, and a firm baton. Assistant music director Doug MacQueen led the Bizet with big gestures, clear cues, and a strong downbeat. The Dexter musicians showed their adaptability by sounding quite different for each conductor: clean and tight under Parrish, bright and colorful under MacQueen.
Now in its third season — which concludes with a concert at the Dexter Center for the Performing Arts in Dexter High School on Saturday, May 17 — the Dexter Community Orchestra isn't the St. Petersburg Philharmonic or even the Ann Arbor Symphony. It couldn't be and doesn't need to be. It's the Dexter Community Orchestra. These musicians love what they do, and their audience loves them for it. What more could anyone ask?
[Review published May 2008]