By Rick Palsgrove
Groveport received a rare musical treat as the Columbus Symphony Orchestra’s Woodwind Quintet performed to a large audience at Groveport Town Hall on Oct. 1.
“This is part of our efforts to reach out to the community and bring classical music to those who can’t always make it to downtown Columbus to hear us play,” said Linda Oper, personnel manager for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.
Oper said the symphony also has a string quartet and a brass quintet that play out in the community at retirement communities, schools and various other sites.
Oper said the Groveport Town Hall auditorium is a wonderful venue to enjoy classical music.
“It’s an intimate setting compared to the Ohio Theatre and its 2,800 seats,” said Oper. “A venue like Groveport Town Hall allows the quintet to vary the musical selections it performs. The musicians can choose music that allows each of them to be a soloist at times.”
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra Woodwind Quintet consists of Randall Hester on flute, Adam Koch on French horn, Robert Royce on oboe, Betsy Sturdevant on bassoon, and David Thomas on clarinet. Historically, Hester said the flute is the oldest
instrument of the group dating back to the days of our ancestors making flutes out of animal bones with holes in them. The newest instrument of the group, according to Thomas, is the clarinet, which was invented in the 1700s.
“The flute or clarinet are often the lead instrument and carry the melody,” said Oper. “The horn and bassoon are more supportive, but they can also carry the melody at times.”
Bassoonist Betsy Sturdevant said playing in a quintet is different from playing in the full orchestra because each instrument in the quintet is exposed to the listener, while in the orchestra the full sound of an instrument can be concealed by the massive overall sound the orchestra produces.
“In a quintet a musician gets to be heard,” said Sturdevant. “It sharpens the ear and you can clearly hear the blending of the instruments. Plus playing in a quintet helps develop a musician’s orchestral skills.”
Sturdevant said she likes playing in the quintet because, “It’s an opportunity for people to get to know us and our instruments. I also like it because we can interact with the audience.”
The love of classical music came to Sturdevant at a young age.
“All of us (in the quintet) noticed classical music as children and it spoke to us. We found ourselves affected by it,” said Sturdevant. “I appreciate the huge, infinite variety and tone colors in classical music. Classical is not limited in range like pop music.”
Though the quintet primarily plays classical music, Sturdevant said they also incorporate some folk and pop music into their performances.
“It shows our versatility,” said Sturdevant. “We can play jazz, the Beatles, folk and more. We like to give a taste of what we can do.”
The quintet’s Groveport Town Hall performance included works by Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms (“The 3 B’s,” said Sturdevant) as well as pieces by Franz Haydn, August Klughardt, and Paul Pierne. Included at the end of the performance were two folk songs: “Londonderry Air” (better known as “Danny Boy”) and a lively version of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain.”
The music performed throughout the concert smoothly flowed through the Town Hall auditorium with a distinctive, rich and full sound.
Between each piece of music, Sturdevant gave a bit of background on what was to be performed. For the Beethoven piece, she said it was originally written for a septet and that Beethoven did not write anything for woodwind quintet.
“Even though woodwind quintets existed in Beethoven’s time, I guess he didn’t get the memo,” joked Sturdevant.
For Pierne’s “Pastorale,” Sturdevant said the French are “well known for their woodwind players, music, and composers.”
At the end of the concert, Sturdevant said, “It was a thrill for us to perform here.”
Visit columbussymphony.com for information on the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.