EXCELLENT LOCAL MUSIC: Full Score Chamber Orchestra heats up the stage

On April 16 the music of Count Basie and West Side Story will be featured in a tribute concert by Full Score Chamber Orchestra.  Visit http://www.fullscore.org/ for information.

Robert Hasspacher, left, a student at Northwestern University performed a viola duet with Ron Arden. – Tina Johansson/theYOUjournal photos

by Long Hwa-shu

While it may have been a bone-chilling night, the music by Full Score Chamber Orchestra was heating up the auditorium with a stunning performance inside Village Church in Gurnee recently.

Ron Arden, artistic director, cut an elegant figure in his long tails and tie, while leading the 50-member orchestra on selections from Georg Philipp Telemann including Avec Douceur, Gay, Largo, and Vivement.

His conducting style was animated and spirited with great showmanship. He seemed to blend nearly seamlessly into the music that enchanted and mesmerized the audience.

Tina Johansson/theYOUjournal
Ron Arden, principal founding member of Full Score Chamber Orchestra is a spirited conductor.
Barb Cannon, principal celloist, is spotlighted during a recent concert.
Cellist Barb Cannon of Libertyville tunes her instrument before the show. 

Arden, a master violist and professional singer (baritone), is a principal founding member of the orchestra in Zion which is thriving, growing and most importantly, as Arden took pride to point out, is “in the black”— a feat not easily claimed by many other community orchestras. He attributes the success, among others, to generous sponsors and volunteers as well as contributions of certain free services by members of the orchestra including himself. Full Score is a non-profit organization.

“Being 11 years old, we’re still a toddler. But we get better every year,” said Arden who received his bachelor’s degree in music from Butler University and master’s in viola performance from the University of Nebraska. He did doctoral work in voice and viola at the University of Houston.

Arden, 62, has performed, taught and conducted for more than 30 years. His viola performances include those at Omaha Symphony and Chamber Orchestra, Lincoln Symphony, Houston Bach Society, Houston Grand Opera, the Florida Philharmonic and the Symphony of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale.

Locally, he was the music director of Lake Forest Civic Orchestra for eight years until 2014. He also served as dean of the Zion Conservatory of Music. The list of his achievements is endless and growing. He is the owner and director of the Allegro Spring Quartet and teaches voice at Barrington High School.

He and his wife, Cynthia, who is concertmaster and violinist, has toured the country for more than a quarter of a century, giving performances in major cities. Mrs. Arden is also a founding member of the Full Score Chamber Orchestra. They have two sons, Nikolas and Ivan. Both are professional musicians. They operate a music studio    at their home in Zion. The couple makes sure that 15 percent of Full Score’s members are non-professionals, recruited from area communities.

Full Score Orchestra performing the Grand Canyon Suite with a backdrop of pictures of the Grand Canyon.
Full Score Orchestra performing the Grand Canyon Suite with a backdrop of pictures of the Grand Canyon.
Principal flutist Jennifer Popowitch, left and Donna Poucher who plays harpsichord were presented bouquets after performing Suite Antique by John Rutter.
Principal flutist Jennifer Popowitch of Mundelein, left, and Donna Poucher of Wadsworth, who plays harpsichord, were presented bouquets by admirers after their performance of Suite Antique. Cynthia Arden, concertmaster, is left of Popowitch.

“We want to give them an opportunity to play in the orchestra,” said Arden, ever the teacher, pointing out that the effort works out well with professionals and non-professionals, mostly students, reciprocating and benefitting from each other.

Young and fresh faces seemed to radiate from the orchestra during the recent performance which included Suite Antique by John Rutter and the Grand Canyon Suite by Ferde Grofé.

Grand Canyon, reputed as the perfect example of “text painting” in musical literature, was presented with overwhelming power that underlined the greatness of the American landmark. Slides projected high on the wall behind the orchestra gave a panoramic view of the Grand Canyon which provided an extra dimension of the performance.

Jennifer Popowitch playing the flute for John Rutter's Suite Antique.
Jennifer Popowitch playing the flute for John Rutter’s Suite Antique.

The sharp, rhythmic hoof beats of the mules walking on the edge of the canyon in “On the Trail,” one of the numbers, performed by the orchestra, were vivid and unforgettable.

Too bad, there weren’t enough people to enjoy the show which, by the way, only cost $15 a ticket pre-sold and $18 at the door.

As Maestro Arden acknowledged, “Our biggest weakness is that we don’t have enough money to publicize.”

Full Score Chamber Orchestra will next present the Mark Rymer Tribute Concert at 7:30 p.m., April 16, at the Village Church of Gurnee. Mr. Rymer, a charter member of the orchestra and director of bands at Zion-Benton Township High School, passed away on April 25, 2011. He was 34. The program which promises an evening of swinging music will include selections from Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and those from Count Basie who led one of the most swinging classic big bands.

For more information visit Full Score Chamber Orchestra on Facebook and at http://www.fullscore.org/ .


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