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Review: PARK AVENUE CHAMBER SYMPHONY's Mahler's Fifth at DiMenna Center

Brilliant Conception, Thrilling Performance

Review: PARK AVENUE CHAMBER SYMPHONY's Mahler's Fifth at DiMenna Center

When some people hear the word "community" before the word(s) chorus, theater, band, or orchestra, they really hear "amateur." Although amateur means to do something for the love of it, the word also seems to have a negative connotation when it comes to quality. After all, if there's no money involved, how can it be good? Doesn't money equal quality? So goes that reasoning. However, not all community performing arts groups are created equal. Some groups accept all comers. Some accept members strictly by audition, some by recommendation. But no matter how they are chosen, every single person no matter their ability level has in common with the rest; a love of the art they share.

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is, technically speaking, an amateur orchestra. They are not union members. They are not paid. They are volunteers. They love what they do. That's where any resemblance to most community orchestras begins and ends. This is an exceptional assemblage of musicians, regardless of their "day" jobs. Membership is by audition and is highly competitive. Everyone in the group is extremely dedicated about rehearsal attendance and practicing...this is immediately evident as soon as they play a single measure. Their music director, David Bernard, is an extraordinarily talented musician. He leads them with a sure hand and expressive face, and they follow him wherever he musically goes. But wait....there's more.

The audience gets involved as well.

PACS's programs often include a component known as "Inside Out." Instead of sitting in the traditional concert formation of an audience in rows of seats facing the stage and musicians, the audience is seated directly next to the musicians. It's as though they are a direct part of the musical action and not passive listeners. It's a unique and intense experience. No one will ever make viola jokes again when they are seated next to one and discover just how difficult it is to make a beautiful sound on it, and hearing that beautiful sound only a few feet or even inches away. The French horn playing becomes a visceral part of the non-performer as well as the performer. It is a hair-raising experience to become a part of this living, breathing mechanism known as an orchestra. It brings composers and their creations to life right in front of the audience. A transcendent experience, indeed. It is heart-stoppingly exciting! A recent Inside Out concert of Maher's 5th symphony (with Maestro Bernard giving a brief introduction to each movement) was one of the most brilliant performances ever heard.

Maestro Bernard, a graduate of the Curtis Institute, has a fabulous season planned for 2022-23. The full roster will be announced shortly, and several of these concerts will be "Inside Out." One will feature the principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, Chris Martin, and another will be performed with projections and a discussion of Impressionist Art featuring the director of the Nassau County Museum. There are at least seven concerts from which to choose in several different locations.

Go and become a member of the orchestra in a way in which you never thought possible!

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From This Author - Joanna Barouch