In a quiet house on Jefferson Avenue, in Highland Square, Joyce Elliott has been creating, teaching and sharing her musical genius with Akron students for decades.
On Sunday, Aug. 23, she celebrated the 15th year of The Highland Square Chamber Orchestra with a performance at the Our Lady of the Elms Auditorium. Elliott led 32 former and current students and friends on a delightful ode to the whimsical and the creative, with pieces by Richard Meyer, F. J. Haydn, J. P. Goude, Vivaldi and an arrangement by John Reed.
The orchestra opened up with the upbeat sounds of Ludwig’s tango, which was up to par with previous years’ performances. The addition of light acting and hi jinks by both the conductor and the three soloists — Natalie Mitchell, Olivia Williams and Matt Maguire — brought the One Bow Concerto to life. It was thoroughly enchanting. The audience giggled as it tried to keep track of which performer had the bow until the conductor herself stole it and the show.
Near the halfway mark it was the audience’s turn to have their heartstrings pulled when Elliott brought her mother, Carol Elliott, up on the stage as the surprise guest soloist. Even though she had never played the violin before she took to it like a pro, playing her three notes right on cue.
The tone changed when Nicole Littlefield took to the podium for her turn as guest conductor. There was a definite difference in style, with the music becoming more somber, with interjections of drama. It still kept up with the idea of a frolic through the park, but on a darker day when the clouds are threatening to burst into rain. It was both beautiful and quieting.
Elliott returned to the podium to lead the full orchestra through two more pieces before the majority of the players stood up to leave, taking with them their chairs and music stands.
The audience was perplexed until quiet returned to the stage. Upon it an ensemble of 14 players remained. Elliott turned to the audience and introduced her concertmaster, Josh Iacano. He bowed and turned to face the conductor.
Quietly and gingerly they began to play. A quiet “la di da, la di da, la di da” and we were all transferred to a meadow where we could run and jump and feel the sun. It was impressive the way Iacano played the highest notes with such ease, and such clarity. Moving expertly into the higher positions, his hand nearly covered his violin, making it look like child’s play.
Vivaldi’s “Summer” from The Four Seasons was a perfect match for Iacano’s solo. It left the audience in awe, incapable of clapping during the long pause between Allegro and Adagio. At the end of this piece the audience expressed its admiration and delight by clapping for a full minute, causing Iacano to reenter the stage to take his second bow.
Overall, this 15th season of the Highland Chamber Orchestra has been the best I have had the pleasure of attending. The music was lively, but most importantly it was executed as perfectly as it could have been given the fact that these players don’t come together like this but once a year. Kudos to Elliott for training up such talented individuals.
Elliott is an award-winning professional violinist, concertmaster, soloist and teacher. Visit www.stringsrule.com.
Nicole Littlefield, guest conductor and violist, attended Revere High School. Josh Iacano, violin soloist, graduated from Firestone High School’s baccalaureate program as valedictorian.