Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is profiled at AfriClassical.com
which features a comprehensive Works List and a Bibliography by Dr. Dominique-Rene de Lerma,www.CasaMusicaledeLerma.com
(Lucy Gellman Photos)
by | Dec 18, 2015
When Chelsea Tipton II, principal pops conductor for the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (NHSO), was a child growing up in Greensboro, N.C., his father had a custom that surfaced around Christmas every year. After the tree was trimmed, the dinner menu set, and carols rehearsed, he would wrap packs of batteries carefully and lay them beneath the tree with a card for the children to read Christmas morning: Batteries. No toys included.
“The message he was trying to get across was that the holiday season is not about stuff,” he said to an audience of a couple hundred at the beginning of the NHSO’s “Holiday Extravaganza” Thursday evening at Woolsey Hall, the proceeds from which were donated to the city’s Community Soup Kitchen. “It’s about people, it’s about relationships. It’s about fellowship. Those are the things that are important.”
True to the sentiment, Tipton — with a surprisingly bouncy symphony behind him, reveling in the festive spirit of composers like Bizet, Handel, and Tchaikovsky — masterfully put joy into the NHSO’s Thursday night performance. With the very first notes of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Polonaise,” he had launched into dancing-conductor mode (something we have been lucky enough to witness with NHSO maestro William Boughton). Those classical-cum-contemporary moves, all delivered with baton in hand, were in line with his mission: to make music as accessible as possible.
“Music is for everyone,” he said last week during an episode of WNHH’s “Kitchen Sync” about the NHSO’s collaboration with the Soup Kitchen. “In the arts, we have to be willing to reach out into the community. I always tell people that music is music is music, meaning that whether it’s country music or new age or classical music it’s the same 12 notes, and you should be open to those types of music.”
“You just never know whose life you’re going to touch, and whose life you’re going to change,” he added. “An orchestra touches lives through experience.”
Thursday, that philosophy made for a rip-roaring, bell-jingling, list-to-Santa-writing, belated-dreidel-spinning rodeo of a concert. Stodgy conventions — to clap or not to clap between movements, to shush and still children dancing in their seats and rows, to question a certain St. Nick jamming out to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Christmas Overture — were left gracefully in the symphonic dust. Instead, there was an intermission with a very special visitor from the North Pole.