The Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO) began its season, with the proud theme of “We Are Queer,” on October 14, at Church of the Holy Apostles, in Chelsea, with a fine concert, billed as “Won’t Back Down,” consisting of a world premiere, a rarity, and some standard repertory, under the knowing baton of Artistic Director Julie Desbordes.
The premiere was Chelsea gay composer Gerald Busby’s “Three Bagatelles for Orchestra,” a welcome piece boasting a definite beginning, middle, and end, entrance, presentation, and departure, evoking, to these ears, somewhere as magical as the Emerald City. The opening “Procession” is bubbly and soaring, heralding the remainder of the work with great anticipation, then somber and contemplative, then ebullient and majestic by turns once again. The central “Love Song for Bassoons” is a darkly romantic nocturne, ending with a lighter ‘awakening.’ “Last Licks” offers bustling, then stately exit music.
Late gay composer Julius Eastman’s seldom-heard, sprightly chamber work “Stay On It” served as ‘curtain raiser’ for the performance, with groups of instrumentalists playing from various areas of the church and sometimes intoning the words, “Stay on it.”
Completing the first half of the concert was QUO’s rousing and resounding account of the “Leonore” Overture Number Three, Ludwig van Beethoven’s penultimate version of a musical introduction for his sole opera “Fidelio,” with a theme of revolutionary resistance against tyranny, its liberty motif here played ‘offstage’ by principal trumpeter Ron Nahass.
Before intermission, incoming QUO President, and cellist, Bjorn Berkhout, presented a plaque, expressing QUO’s gratitude, to outgoing President, continuing Orchestra Manager, and percussionist Andrew Berman.
The second half of the afternoon was devoted to Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto Number One in D minor, featuring piano virtuoso Michael Sheppard. The first movement Maestoso immediately established this as a lofty opus. Then Sheppard made his first emphatic statement with great feeling, suggestive, perhaps, of a great leader’s love and honor for homeland and compatriots. A gentler Adagio followed, with the soloist’s contribution again song-like, marked now by grandeur, then by restraint. The Rondo: Allegro non troppo, the concerto’s summation, was alternately fiery and sly.
QUO’s season continues on December 1 at 8 p.m., at the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul, at 315 West 22nd Street, with Paul Lansky’s “Stripes,” Paul Dukas’ Fanfare from “La Péri,” Giovanni Gabrieli’s “Jubilate Deo,” Peter Warlock’s “Capriol” Suite, Franz Schubert’s Little Symphony for Winds, , and Sergei Prokofiev’s “Lieutenant Kijé” Suite.
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