American Dreamscapes- Epilogue

So now it’s Monday after the CHSO Season Finale, and I’m closing the books on another year – our sixteenth consecutive season.

Over the past month we’ve been talking about the program for the season finale– building excitement and anticipation amongst both our audience and orchestra members– and then it was concert week.   We immersed in intense rehearsals to put together this complex program in three nights of practice – coordinating new vocal charts, narrators, navigating through the intricacies of Leonard Bernstein’s masterful West Side Story, and then it was concert night and I was so intensely focused on getting through each part of the program, that I wasn’t aware of it as a whole.

After the concert, I was almost in a fog.  All that was running through my mind at the time was, “It’s over, I think it was good.”   People were coming up to myself and orchestra members exclaiming praise on the event that night.   I know the “America the Beautiful” was an effective encore after the evening’s flow – everyone in the hall was on their feet singing strongly – it was like a sudden “Flash Mob” – and for a moment, I was brought to tears.

We all adjourned to the Caffe Sorrento to unwind, have some great food, and share stories.   I was still kind of in a stupor.   It’s over, the season is done.   Was it as good a finale as the season deserved?  Was I at my best?   I think it was a similar feeling to “post partem!”

Below is the message I sent out today to the orchestra. It pretty much sums up my feeling today about the night, our orchestra, and our audience.

“I just want to thank you all and congratulate you on a phenomenal Season Finale on Saturday night – a truly appropriate climax to an already amazing and stellar season.

It was a complex and varied program, with all the new charts, and the constantly changing instrument set up, and dealing with a singer and narrators to boot.  (Imagine, we were thinking of also doing a projected image package on the screen along with it, and the TV station had wanted to bring a new 30-foot camera boom to extend over the orchestra to get some better individual camera angles on you!!!!!)

After the concert, I was so mentally exhausted, I wasn’t even sure how happy I was with the concert!  I thought we had done a pretty good job with everything, but I wasn’t sure it was as great as I hoped or that I was as perfect as I wanted to be.   I know the audience seemed pretty ecstatic over it.

I just finished watching a video clip of the entire Bernstein, shot by Bernadette up in the side balcony.   Watch this clip and relive this stellar moment!

I was astounded.    Astonished, humbled, moved, proud, and grateful for the privilege of working with you all as fellow musicians and community advocates.

The performance was worthy of national broadcast, and going viral so we can share your great artistry with the world.

The GORGEOUS orchestra sound, and especially of the strings in the elegiac slow moments in the Bernstein – reminiscent of the Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana --  the perfect intonation in the woodwinds in those moments, the power and percussive force of our brass and percussionists – and the total emotion, intensity and energy of all you brought our audience a profound rendering of Lenny’s masterwork – creating a moving narrative and morality play for our community – a fitting centerpiece to the theme of the evening.

And I know that our Claflin Hill audience and supporters feel the same way about THEIR orchestra.

It is INDEED quite a feat we’ve all accomplished together – the creation of a vibrant, musical culture and a community – sharing great music, educating young people, a workplace for great musicians to create together and be a family, and an audience that participates in a true communal sense – supporting, engaging in dialogue and sharing with friends and enlarging the circle.

Thank you again to all – orchestra members, audience members, board members, donors and corporate sponsors.   And CONGRATULATION to ALL of YOU.   You have made this happen.

Stay tuned, for there’s more to come. . . . .

Paul Surapine

 

The Dream Lives On: The Kennedy Brothers

I was really too young to remember the years of “Camelot” and “The New Frontier, ” but I’ve often told people that I have three mental images from childhood that I can turn to as my “earliest memories.”  All of them have linkage to our upcoming season finale next Saturday, “American Dreamscapes.”

I was probably three years old, (I was born in July of 1959), and I can remember an afternoon, perhaps in the winter, when my mother was watching over me and my baby brother.   She was ironing my father’s shirts and handkerchiefs in the den, while watching afternoon television, and I was playing on the floor.

There was a man on the television screen, in pretty much a “full face camera angle” talking.  I asked my mother who this guy was, and she answered, “That’s the President of our country, and he’s talking to the people.”  Well, to my three year old mind, he seemed a bit boring, and I wished he would talk faster and get done, so we could return to watching the afternoon cartoons!

I can, however, remember the image of that face, imprinted indelibly in my memory – the square, handsome face, the eyes as they danced and his smile as he quipped and bantered with the reporters in the witty way for which he was known.

That image will remain forever in the memories of many Americans, as we didn’t get to watch him age He will be forever young, handsome and vital – an image that transferred over into the outlook and spirit of the country in that short time. 

It was a time of optimism, of absolute “can do” spirit – the generation that had gone to war and saved the world from tyranny and horror was back home, raising families, moving out of the “triple-deckers” in the cities and buying new homes in the suburbs – each of them taking hold of their piece of the American Dream, and building their own little castle and estate.

We had a President who was of that generation, and he had a stunning and cultured wife, and his beautiful children ran and played in the White House – bringing youth and new energy to its staid halls.

And his words inspired us – whether you voted for him or not – his words rang and resonated in every American’s psyche – not the tired old adages of old men politicians – but words that inspired a new sense of patriotism, of community, of working together and especially of a world that could and must be a better place for all.

After the tragedy of his assassination, the torch passed to his brother Bobby, and then to Teddy – as a nation struggled to hang onto that moment of shining optimism – to keep the fragile flame alive for a moment longer – to bring back that brief moment of Camelot.  

Their collective words and ideals remain today, hopefully still inspiring new generations of Americans and world citizens to the “better angels of our nature” to borrow from Abraham Lincoln. 

As we bring our 2015-16 Claflin Hill Season to a close, we will be performing Grammy nominated composer Peter Boyer’sThe Dream Lives On – A Portrait of the Kennedy Brothers.” I believe it would be good for every citizen to revisit the words of Jack, Bobby and Teddy – even as we continue through another Presidential election campaign that has been less than inspiring to any of us.   Perhaps a better remembrance of their words and of the time we came from can better temper and inform our outlooks on the future we need to build for our children.  The “Dream of America” still exists in our hearts and minds and it is our responsibility to curate it, nurture and hold its flame up high for an entire world who is also still searching for that dream.

Oh, and the other two memories I still hold in my head from when I was three years old were also both on TV.  The first was seeing John Glenn step out of his space capsule onto the deck of an aircraft carrier after his historic orbital flight, returning from a journey that was started by that young American President, John F. Kennedy. The second was of Leonard Bernstein, conducting one of his Sunday afternoon “Young Peoples Symphony” broadcasts on CBS. 

What a time that was.  I look forward to seeing you Saturday to share the dream!

Paul Surapine

"It's Frank's World- We just live in it."

Part 3

I think everyone has a fascination with Frank Sinatra.  I was too young to see him in his prime – especially during the time of the resurgence of his career after his great role in “From Here to Eternity” but he was a presence in everyone’s cultural awareness even when I was growing up.  (My late Uncle Joe Romano always wore a pin that said – “IT’S FRANK’S WORLD – we just live in it!”

Frank was the “Elvis” or “Beatles” of his generation – driving millions of teen age “bobby-sockers” to scream and swoon – as he began his career as a singer with Tommy Dorsey’s Big Band.  Frank was more than a “band singer;” he wanted to learn from the musicians how to use his magnificent gift of a voice like a musician. 

One of my earliest memories of Frank – aside from hearing my Dad say that “It Was a Very Good Year” was his favorite song – was seeing him in a movie with Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine called “Some Came Running.”  I don’t think it gained him any raves or notice, but I really liked the movie and was sympathetic to Sinatra’s character. It was one of a string of movies in his “down” period, when people wondered if he was fading. 

And then came “From Here to Eternity.”  Following that, more roles, such as Nathan Detroit in “Luck Be a Lady” began a new beginning of his singing career. 

There was the added “cachet” of his private but very public life – the friendships and marriages with the “glitterati” of the time – Ava Gardner, the Rat Pack – Dino, Sammyand Peter Lawford – and his friendship with the Kennedy boys.  He was an icon of that time, and a very well-polished and well-matured idol!

My wife Susan and I have been going to the Caffé Sorrento for as long as we’ve lived on Claflin Hill – going on 25 years now.   On Saturdays, there has always been music – sometimes live and sometimes with a DJ and Karaoke.   For over 10 years, we’ve been listening to a young man sing Sinatra, and from the first times I’d hear him, I was always astounded at the musicianship and art that he brought to his re-creations of Frank’s favorite hits.  I’ve always told people, “close your eyes and you’ll think Frank Sinatra from 1963 had just walked in the room!”

That vocalist – Tommy Gatturna – is actually a union plumber by day and trade, and he’s never had a formal voice lesson in his life.  He has always been fascinated by the work of Frank Sinatra, and studied and listened to all of his phrasing and nuances – he is pretty much a “self-taught” singer.   I think he received some valuable tips, advice and support from Franco the D.J. – along-time fixture at the Sorrento and a former Berklee professor. Tommy has only gotten better as the years have gone by -- just like the last verse from “It Was a Very Good Year” – ”And now I think of my life as a vintage wine from fine old kegs.”

Tommy Gatturna, Vocalist

Tommy Gatturna, Vocalist

I always wanted to perform many of the classic Sinatra tunes from his early Sixties “Reprise” album – great songs with great orchestrations arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, and Tommy and I would often talk about how we could do that.  Several years ago, we presented a special “Gala Benefit Event” for Claflin Hill, and with Milford’s own legendary Jerry Seeco, brought the idea to reality.  Jerry worked for months – listening to those old recordings and re-creating his own arrangements of those great songs and ballads for us to perform with Tommy. 

As a matter of fact, I also met Jerry Seeco at the Caffé Sorrento, many years ago – it’s always been a hot spot and a “hang” for musicians and lovers of great music.

On April 30th, Tommy and Jerry join us at Claflin Hill Symphony for our Season Finale – “American Dreamscapes.”   We’re looking forward to bringing these great musical charts back to life, presenting Tommy’s great artistry and heart to our CHSO Subscription audience, and paying tribute to a time in our past, when all seemed right with the world and the American Dream was thriving.