Our community’s wonderful Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO), under the artistic direction and expert baton of Julie Desbordes, has a season theme of “Abracadabra! Experience Musical Magic” and the opening concert, entitled “Witches and Warlocks,” on the afternoon after Halloween, at Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, effectively set the tone for 2015-16 and the organization’s chosen focus. Magician Patrick Terry hosted, introducing the pieces of music and wowing us with some of his sleight of hand in the course of the performance.
QUO, Desbordes, and concertmaster Phong Ta, as solo violinist, aptly began the program with a rollicking and ringing dance of Death and his apparitional followers, in gay ancestor Camille Saint-Saëns’ popular “Danse Macabre,” Opus 40. In contrast, QUO next played a lyrical and refreshing Symphony Number 93 in D major, one of the London Symphonies of Franz Joseph Haydn. In the second movement Largo cantabile, booming passages, including brief comments from solo drum and deepest wind, took us by surprise by following restrained ones, and some martial horns, commenting on the strings’ statements, did the same in the third movement Menuetto (Allegretto) and Trio. In the fourth movement Finale (Presto ma non troppo), we heard some subtle near-quotations from the overture and first scene of the opera “Don Giovanni,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose untimely death occurred in 1791, the same year that Haydn wrote this work.
In Heitor Villa-Lobos’ rare “Uirapurú” (the Enchanted Bird), QUO richly evoked the exotic and mysterious atmosphere and native tribes, flora, and fauna of the Amazon rain forest, with sounds of Nature throughout; a striking flute solo, from principal flautist and flute section leader Craig Devereaux, representing the eponymous bird; Terry producing a live white dove from a flat black scarf; and Ta taking up the violinophone, bowed like a standard violin, but with resonance that would ordinarily come from the violin body emerging instead through a horn akin to that of an early phonograph. To conclude this Halloween season celebration, QUO fluently limned the dark mischief and chaos of Paul Dukas’ “L’apprenti Sorcier,” depicting the Sorcerer’s hapless apprentice, indelibly associated, for many of us, with the image, from the Walt Disney, Leopold Stokowski, and the Philadelphia Orchestra film “Fantasia,” of Mickey Mouse and the many brooms and buckets of water sloshing and overwhelming him.
QUO’s season at Holy Apostles continues on December 19 at 8 p.m. and 20 at 4 p.m. with “Presto Change-O,” consisting of Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” overture, Symphony Number 41 (“Jupiter”), and “Schlittenfahrt” (Sleigh Ride), the third of the Teutsche (Three German Dances); Maurice Ravel’s “Ma mère l’oye” (Mother Goose); and Fernande Decruck’s Sonata in C-sharp minor for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, featuring QUO saxophonist and clarinetist Aaron Patterson. Quotets Chamber Concerts take place on February 6 and May 14, 2016 at 8 p.m. On April 16 at 8 p.m., at “Alakazam!,” James Adler will be welcome guest soloist for his Concerto in G for Piano and Orchestra. QUO’s season concludes on June 25 at 8 p.m. with “Spellbound: Pride Gay-La.” For information and tickets—$20 general admission, $15 advance sale, or $10 for students and seniors—visit www.queerurbanorchestra.org
or telephone 646/233-4113. Church of the Holy Apostles is located at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street.