When Mozart Met Moana

Yesira Delgado | May 8th, 2019

When Mozart Met Moana

ConnCAT  |  Music  |  Arts & Culture  |  New Haven Symphony Orchestra  |  Youth Arts Journalism Initiative


Yesira Delgado Photo. 

Moana was coming to life, standing at the edge of a great expanse of water. Violin soared, and she dipped a toe in. Viola rose to meet it, and she waded a little further. In the audience, a few people leaned in to hear every note. Somewhere in the second row of chairs, the ghost of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart appeared, grooving right alongside the music in his powdered wig.

Friday night, over a dozen New Haveners gathered at ConnCAT's Orchid Café for HS3-19, one of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra's wide-ranging Harmony Series Concerts. Musicians included violinists James Keene and Millie Piekos, violist Yaroslav Kargin, and and cellist Rebecca Patterson.

Over a year ago, the Harmony Series was conceived as a varied selection of music for community members, to be performed in New Haven's neighborhoods. In addition to Mozart's well-loved Eine Kleine nachtmusik k 525 1. Allegro, pieces Friday ranged from Disney favorites to references to the television series Game Of Thrones.

Jaws dropped when members of the quartet played "Oh My Darling Clementine" by Florence Prince, who they classified as the first African-American woman to be considered a symphonic composer. As they began to play the song it was calm and soothing. Then quickly, the music became more intense.

The four worked together, adding intensity as they rocked, bowed their heads, and even shook a little with the notes. In the intimacy of the café, it intensified the experience of listening to and watching the song. It was like a recipe, where the musicians were the components to make the entire show complete. There was a dash of cello, and then two splashes of violin and one of viola to help pull the song together.

The quartet also delighted—and wowed—the crowd as it tackled more modern music. It took the crowd back in time to The Beatles with "Hey Jude,” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” then sped forward in time with “Can't Stop The Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake.

 It turned a favorite from a children's movie soundtrack into a dazzling show of strings. The quartet hit every note in Disney’s Moana “How Far I’ll Go,” bringing the song to life. When they played the famous theme song from the show Game of Thrones, everyone moved instantly in their seats, as if they were watching it from the couches in their television rooms at home.

 For attendee Milacaly Rodriguez, it was a refreshing way to see both classical music and some modern favorites. As a New Havener, she said she likes that the quartet gets out into the community.

"It was unexpected to hear modern music, but at the same time hear a classic like Mozart,” she said. She added that “it was very touching to see how they would give each other cues. The passion is there, you can feel the music, you get immersed in it because they are as well.”

Towards the end of the show, musicians played a tango by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla which included an unusual sound from the violin. As violinist James Keene began to play, audience members could hear striking scratch of the bow.

“The sounds you make with your instrument are not always meant to be beautiful but instead, expressive,” he said.

Patterson, who is the NHSO's principal cello, added that the way she interprets music is also personal, often remixing and flipping around aspects of a song.

“I use music to express how I’m feeling versus the music making me feel a certain way,” she said.

This piece comes to the Arts Paper through the second annual Youth Arts Journalism Initiative (YAJI), a program of the Arts Council of Greater New Haven and the New Haven Free Public Library. Over eight weeks this spring, ten New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) students will be working with Arts Paper Editor Lucy Gellman and YAJI Program Assistant Melanie Espinal to produce four articles, for each of which they are compensated. Read more about the program here