Sunday, November 25, 2007

Goleta community orchestra strikes a chord


The parking lot at Goleta Valley Junior High is dark and wet, the light from streetlamps filtered by a heavy fog, only the occasional rumble of a passing car breaking the dense silence.
But then, from the depths of a narrow hallway, the faint strains of a violin joined by the deep timbre of a cello filter through the gloomy mist.
In a warm, well-lit room, the Goleta Valley Community Orchestra is preparing for its annual free Christmas concert.

“There are so many people who are just totally not aware of the beauty of classical music,” director Laurel Fryer said. “…It’s an opportunity to expose their children and expose themselves to the beauty of symphonic, orchestral music.”
Operated through the Santa Barbara City College Adult Education program, the orchestra usually has about 30 members, some of which have played with the group well into its storied past.
“There are people that have been there for I’d say 20 years,” Fryer said.
Although the history of the orchestra is a bit fuzzy, she’s been told Harold Dunn started it along with Irwin Maguire — both household names in local classical music circles — more than 40 years ago.
“It was the first community orchestra,” she said. “They didn’t have an orchestra at SBCC at the time.”
When she came in to run the orchestra eight years ago, a decent woodwind and brass section remained, mostly because of an oversupply of those players in the community. But the string section was in tatters.
“They come and go,” Fryer said, explaining that many move on to other orchestras in the community. “My string players are all pretty new.”
Initially playing at local retirement communities due to the small size of the group, they eventually started to outgrow the tiny venues. A few years ago, Fryer decided to hold a concert at the Wake Center in Goleta.
“It’s kind of a hand-to-mouth operation,” she said, “but we always manage to do it somehow.”
Her reasons for hosting a free concert are two-fold, she explained. First, the orchestra members have worked hard and deserve to have a chance to perform.
But perhaps more important, she said, is to enlighten members of the community, children in particular, about the beauty of orchestral music.
“I give an explanation before each piece of music to give a little background and to illustrate what you should be looking for in the sound,” she said. “It’s all for the community. I do it because I want to educate people about classical music.”
One of the draws for Fryer, and for many of the members of the Goleta Valley Community orchestra, is the thrill of playing together as a group. Having to play in unison with a large ensemble is a lot different than plunking away on a piano alone, Fryer said.
Jill Freeland, a violinist with the orchestra, said Fryer has done an incredible job in bringing together the individual members of the group to create an ensemble sound.
“Choosing the right music for the group’s abilities — challenging, but not out of our scope — and really working on the subtle details that make a group of musicians sound good together is a challenge,” Freeland said. “You’d probably get a different answer for any person you asked, but my personal feeling is that there is nothing like playing with a large group to produce a sound you could never do on your own.
“I go because it’s one of those things that when you’re doing it you forget everything else going on in your life and are focused only on the music.”

The Goleta Valley Community Orchestra will hold its free holiday concert on December 3 at 7:15 p.m. at the Wake Center, 300 N. Turnpike Rd. in Goleta. Performances will include Dittersdorf, Symphony in F; Dvorak, Slavonic Dance No. 4 Op 46; Bizet, Symphony in C major; and Vaughan Williams, Rhosymedre.

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