The tricky thing about time is that it often finds us thinking that things have always been when, in fact, they haven’t. This fact was evident several times during Tuesday’s Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra’s Kimball Theatre performance which marked Janna Hymes's farewell performance (Wednesday’s program was officially the last).
Prior to and during the performance, a number of opportunities were taken to pay tribute to Hymes for her 15 years of contributions to the development and advancement of the WSO, starting with a proclamation from Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling.
In addition to other comments, a rendering of Hymes by versatile artist Bob Oller and a photo book of candid shots taken during her tenure also were presented. Throughout these moments, it was good to remember that the expanded series, community outreach programs, special musical events, holiday programs, and on and on were not always here. They’ve become so much a part of our lives that we tend to forget.
It was under Hymes that such growth took place, not to mention, most importantly, the high performance standard the WSO now boasts. It has been an exciting period and the community has benefited from all that Hymes sought to do.
For this farewell fare, there was a musical variety that was bookended by two warhorse staples of the repertoire, both in performances and classical radio stations: Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major, the “Classical,” which opened the program, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8, which closed it.
Sandwiched in between were the evening’s most savory portions, starting with “Love Letter,” a solo violin work by Michael Thurber written for and performed by Tessa Lark, with whom Thurber tours as a violin-bass duo. Both are esteemed musicians. Thurber’s background involves everything from concert halls to clubs to Stephen Colbert’s house band. His musical voice is fresh, his sounds alive with color and creativity and a fascinating blend of classical, blues, bluegrass, jazz and varied pop genres.
Similarly, Lark is considered one of the big violin names on the scene who plays jazz and very serious folk-bluegrass music, in addition to solo and chamber work with many of the world’s most talented musicians and groups.
“Love Letter” seemed to focus on bluegrass flavor, with touches of things classical. It embraced lyricism, dance-like energy and meditative moments, qualities which Lark emphasized in a compelling performance. Not a piece of firework virtuoso displays but rather one of total delight that soothed and energized, Lark was one with the piece, as was the packed house with it and her.
She followed this with a stunningly ethereal “Meditation from ‘Thais.’” A not unfamiliar piece, Lark’s delivery was beyond the norm, breathtaking in its beauty and shape. Audible sighs of appreciation were heard on its final heaven-bound sounds.
Thurber and Lark then teamed up for a violin-bass encore they co-wrote, “Cedar and Sage,” which showed them to be delightful collaborators and a rather delightful couple.
The savory fare continued with the “Adagietto” for strings and harp from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5. Although lacking the large number of strings normally associated with this work, the WSO strings dug deep into its soul and offered a totally engulfing delivery that in no way shortchanged the elegance and reverence of this movement. It was as sensitively done and as emotionally involved as could be desired.
As for the opening Prokofiev, with its nod to Haydn, it was everything it should have been — light, lyrical, delicate and jovial, as was the Beethoven simply sunny, light hearted and of good cheer. Both were given neat as a pin performances — clean, concise, exacting, cohesive and enthusiastic, making this an appropriately fond (and well played) farewell for Hymes and a chance for us to recall and be grateful for her valued efforts in shaping the WSO and its excellence.
We wish her bon voyage and continued success with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra and its enviously large, elegant and acoustically designed Palladium concert hall. Good things do happen to good people. Bravo to Hymes.
Shulson, a Williamsburg resident, has been covering the arts for over 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."