Monday, October 27, 2008

Beethoven's Ninth in New Bedford.

Today's Standard-Times has a report on a concert held in New Bedford's historic St. Anthony of Padua Church to commemorate the 400th birthday of Quebec City:
For the many thousands of immigrants from French Canada who came to New Bedford to work in the mills in the latter part of the 19th century, the move was no "Ode to Joy." Most arrived from rural areas in the province of Quebec and faced a difficult transition to a heavily industrialized city in a foreign land.

Not surprisingly, the lives of the newcomers centered around their church, and, by 1912, the newcomers had become sufficiently established to build the magnificent St. Anthony of Padua Church in the North End.

The legacy and cultural heritage of these Franco-Americans were celebrated with considerable splendor Sunday as the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra joined with the Rhode Island College Chorus and Chamber Singers for a concert to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City by Samuel Champlain.

"I'm completely satisfied. It was a glorious performance," NBSO musical director David MacKenzie said. "You can't do a performance in this kind of a physical and spiritual setting and not be moved by it."

The prolonged standing ovation that followed the rousing finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the first symphony to incorporate voice, left no doubt that these sentiments were shared by an appreciative audience that filled every pew in a church with a capacity of 1,900.

"It was an overwhelming experience," said the Rev. Roger J. Landry, pastor at St. Anthony's. "I was thrilled to see so many people here. It's such a great opportunity to match the beauty of the church with the beauty of Beethoven's ninth symphony."
To read the rest, click here. The fact that no one questions the use of a German symphony incorporating a text by Schiller in a concert commemorating the deeds of a French explorer bears witness to the universality of Beethoven's Ninth. I make note of yesterday's concert mainly to draw readers' attention to the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra. Though the NBSO will never be confused with the likes of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra or the Vienna Philharmonic, it should be a point of pride for SouthCoast residents that New Bedford has its own professional orchestra. I'm also pleased by the continuing collaboration between the NBSO and St. Anthony of Padua, which remains one of the most impressive church buildings I've seen (take the virtual tour and you'll see why) and strikes me as a fine venue for orchestral concerts. In short, it's good to know that good things are happening in New Bedford. AMDG.


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