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AFTER HOURS: WindSync warmth on a winter night

KATHERINE WALDEN -- For The Telegraph

SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHThe WindSync quintet played at Wesleyan College on Jan. 19.
SPECIAL TO THE TELEGRAPHThe WindSync quintet played at Wesleyan College on Jan. 19.

On Jan. 19, Macon Concert Association patrons braved the icy breezes that whipped around Pierce Chapel on Wesleyan College's campus to hear five young musicians play many of their arrangements of contemporary compositions.

From the opening selection of Leonard Bernstein's overture to "Candide," the WindSync quintet held the audience in thrall, as coats were shed to hear a lively program of chamber music with an innovative twist.

Emily Tsai, oboist, stated that the music is committed to memory to eliminate the use of music stands, "so we are not looking down at the sheet music, but are engaged with you."

One of the musicians gave a brief history of each piece and its composer, addressing the changes made by the quintet in its arrangement.

The adagio from Mozart's Serenade in B flat Major, "Gran Partita," the one performance written by an 18th century composer, was a vigorous interpretation of a classical piece at the hands of WindSync. Adam Schoenberg's "Winter Music" reflected the gaiety of holidays in the snow, reminiscent of well-known Christmas jingles.

Igor Stravinsky's Suite from "Pulcinella" typified Stravinsky's sophisticated humor in dealing with melodrama, and was well adapted by the chamber ensemble without diminishing the original plot -- Pulcinella's triumphant efforts to foil a comedic, romantic tragedy.

The quintet expressed the full range of emotions from the forbidding bass notes of Tracy Jacobson's bassoon to the swooning fantasy of Jack Marquardt's clarinet.

MULTITASKING FOR RAVEL'S 'BOLERO'

A snare drum, sitting in the shadows, raised some curiosity until it was moved to center stage when Garrett Hudson's flute opened Ravel's familiar "Bolero."

Initially, the staccato beat of the drum was the only sound accompanying the flute, eventually answered by Marquardt's clarinet. In a cleverly synchronized pattern, each player took the role of drummer, relieving a player that was needed in the ensemble. The melody sequentially engaged each instrument -- Tsai's oboe, and Anni Hochhalter's French horn maintaining the rhythm of the Spanish dance -- in counterpoint to the constancy of the drum, until the resounding crescendo.

REMEMBERING SHAKESPEARE

In 1996, Baz Luhrmann produced a contemporary film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," and asked the British alternative rock band, Radiohead, to write the closing number, titled "Exit Music."

As Hudson said in introducing the song, "we will get the sadness out of the way first," leaving music from Act I of "West Side Story" to end the concert on a high note.

The 1957 play, also based on Shakespeare's tale of star-crossed lovers, is set in an ethnically mixed, New York neighborhood in the mid 1950s. In the first act, the audience was introduced to Maria, whose loyalties lay with the Puerto Rican gang, the Sharks, and to Tony, aligned with the white, rival gang, the Jets, who falls in love with Maria.

Bernstein's music for the first act was hopeful and happy, with only subtle warning of the turbulent gang warfare to come. The familiar songs with their Latin beat, the incredible interpretation of the tension and drama, particularly by Jacobson's bassoon and Hochhalter's horn, brought the concert to a dynamic finale and the audience to its feet.

The energetic ingenuity of WindSync will be remembered for the engaging personalities that warmed up a frigid night.

A FOND FAREWELL TO 'DOWNTON ABBEY'

Anxious to tie up the loose ends in the plot of "Downton Abbey," fans of National Public Broadcasting's Masterpiece Theater production braved the elements Jan. 23 to view the current week's installment of the popular series on the big screen.

Josephine Bennett, local Georgia Public Broadcasting's station manager, coordinated the GPB fundraiser and cocktail party, which featured specialty drinks from the series. Sue Bond posed with a life-sized paper cutout of Lady Mary Crawley in her period costume, matching the widow's long dress; Carey Pickard wore monogrammed pajamas to remind "Downton" fans that young men and women did have some fun at their secret pajama parties.

This is the last season for the "Downton" series, so stay tuned to find out if Mr. Bates, the Earl's valet, and his wife, Anna, Lady Mary's attendant, become parents or, if the butler Mr. Carson and his new wife Mrs. Hughes stop calling each other Mr. and Mrs. behind closed doors.

If the crowd at the Library Ballroom was any indication, there are a lot of men who watch the series, even if they won't admit it in public.

Contact Katherine Walden at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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