Festival Orchestra Plays to Applause of Crowd


When the light of the setting sun - streaming through the stained glass windows above the stage of the Tabernacle - erased all but the outline of the Martha's Vineyard Festival Orchestra, the audience suspected that something special was about to happen.

Conductor Chris Allen brought down his baton, and classical music resonated through the Tabernacle. The audience experienced the lulls of Summer's Passing with closed eyes and peaceful smiles, while a crisp autumn breeze ran through the pews.

But it wasn't until the piece finished and Mr. Allen faced the audience to urge the song's composer - young Jonas Budris - to stand for his applause that the audience truly understood the magic of the Martha's Vineyard Festival Orchestra.

Known among the organizers as "the community preservation act" of music, MVFO brought to the Island 70 renowned musicians, whose credits include performances with the best orchestras in the world, and combined them with young Island talent. Mr. Allen's orchestra offered a chance for high school performers to sit with the musicians they've admired since childhood. It also offered budding Island composer Jonas Budris the opportunity to debut Summer's Passing through the expert precision of the ensemble.

Even though the clarity and passion of the music matched the finest symphonies, there were moments in the performance that rang truly Vineyard. It was seen through the comfort of one of Mr. Allen's friends, who came to the stage to shake his hand before the performance began. And when Mr. Allen couldn't see his orchestra because of the blinding sun, he excused himself for a moment to retrieve a baseball cap. Unconcerned with appearances, he continued to lead the festival orchestra wearing his trusty visor. Many of the members of the orchestra left formal attire at home, trading collared blouses for white sweaters. And when a baby cried during the Romeo and Juliet Overture, the piece seemed to rise and fall, matching the crescendo of the child's wail.

Ann Brown offered another taste of the Vineyard when this summer Islander stepped to the stage to narrate The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. Her husband purchased this privilege for Mrs. Brown during the Possible Dreams Auction for Martha's Vineyard Community Services. Small in stature but powerful in voice, Mrs. Brown detailed the make-up of the orchestra.

When Lauren Carelli, Sam Decker, Caroline Mayhew and Jenna Zadeh, violinists from the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School, stepped to center stage for their solos in Concerto for Four Violins, only their youthful faces told of their inexperience. Rehearsing the pieces for only a week, the young musicians mastered the complicated measures with an inspiring depth of feeling. The smiles on their faces when they took a final bow bespoke their satisfaction.

An orchestra that rehearsed together but for one day before the night performance might have been a formula for disaster, but their expertise and professional calm prevailed. By the occasional smile flickering across the face of a violinist, the audience knew they enjoyed the challenge of performing less-rehearsed pieces with fresh company.

Another Vineyard quirk halted the concert just before the last programmed piece. An 8:45 p.m. reservation forced the orchestra to substitute a shorter piece for Roman Carnival Overture so they could catch the departing ferry with ease.

With the Martha's Vineyard Festival Orchestra still in its infancy, John Budris, an organizer of the event, encouraged the audience to commit to ensuring this type of program continues.

"All Island traditions - like Illumination Night and the agricultural fair - had to begin," Mr. Budris said, urging the community to make the MVFO oneof the Island's prized summer events.