It was not your grandmother’s symphony Saturday night during Scott Seaton’s debut as the North State Symphony’s new music director/conductor at Redding’s Cascade Theatre.
Saturday’s aptly named concert – “Now Presenting” – kicked off the NSS’s new season with the newly selected Seaton.
Your grandmother’s symphony probably didn’t have a pre-concert street party in front of the Cascade Theatre with peach bellinis and appetizers.
And your grandmother’s symphony conductor probably didn’t use terms like “ear worm” during the before-concert talk to describe the catchiness of “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony” or “crazy fun” when referring to the upcoming November concert.
Maybe, in addition to appreciating Seaton’s musical talent, the committee admired Seaton’s ability to check his ego at the green room door before coming on stage with a single goal: to direct, lead, cajole, extract, encourage and guide dozens of musicians to produce the best music possible.
Saturday, the symphony – a blend of Chico- and Redding-area musicians – did not disappoint. Overall, the orchestra’s performance was strong, tight and confident, which was further enhanced sans electric amplification, thanks to the Cascade Theatre’s impressive acoustics.
The program began with the “Overture to the Bartered Bride”, by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana.
Next, Seaton conducted as guest artist Alpin Hong was featured and demonstrated much flair and flawless technique in Tchaikovsky’s “First Piano Concerto.” This brought the audience to their feet – twice, between movements, oops – which Hong rewarded with a solo piano medley that began with a Bach-elaborate rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle” and moved on to such pieces as themes from “Star Wars” and “Gilligan’s Island”. Behold: Hong’s third ovation.
Seaton later commented that Hong’s piano solo was one of the best ovation pieces he’d ever heard.
Consider the amount of moxie it took for Seaton to share the stage and limelight with Hong, a charismatic super-pianist; on the very night of Seaton’s coming-out performance in Redding.
Seaton put the class in classical.
Likewise, it took some moxie for the NSS selection committee to stray away from the traditional comfort zone of hiring a “mature” conductor, and move toward choosing Seaton — yes, smart and musically gifted — but also many decades younger than the average North State Symphony-goer.
It was during Seaton’s direction of Beethoven’s “Fifth Symphony” that he pulled out the stops, and gave some insight into what made him so appealing to the NSS selection committee.
He began with a transitional piece – “Fifth Prelude for Orchestra” – written by Tennessee composer Michael Slayton, who happens to be one of Seaton’s former music professors, who attended Saturday’s concert.
At the conclusion of Slayton’s prelude piece, with scarcely a break between the new and old compositions, Seaton let loose. He took the 5th with such gusto that if fireworks could conduct, they’d be named Seaton. His movements ranged from as controlled and explosive as a prize fighter to as fluid and delicate as a ballet dancer.
He swayed, he sweat, he frowned, he smiled and he grimaced. He crouched, he beckoned, he pointed and he put his finger to his lips.
And when it was all over, there was Seaton’s standing ovation, and a bouquet of flowers.
One can only imagine Seaton’s relief to have his first concert in Redding behind him as the North State Symphony conductor.
With that, he got a bottle of water and sat down on the edge of the stage, legs dangling off the edge, and greeted people.
The next concert is “Maestro in the Spotlight” – 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in Chico; 4 p.m. Nov. 15 in Redding.
Crazy fun. Guaranteed. And maybe, if you’re lucky, a few ear worms.
For more information visit NorthStateSymphony.org or call the North State Symphony office at 530-898-5984.