Sage City Symphony to present spring concert and benefit dinner at Bennington College on Sunday


BENNINGTON >> Live music followed by a benefit dinner will be hosted by the Sage City Symphony on Sunday as part of its spring concert.

The performance starts at 4 p.m. in the Greenwall Auditorium at Bennington College with the fundraising dinner, cooked by board members and orchestra members, right after. It costs $25 for adults, with alcohol priced at about $5 per glass.

The symphony will present "Violin Concerto in A Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach, soloist Kaori Washiyama, "Symphony no. 4 in G Major" by Gustav Mahler, soprano soloist Kerry Ryer-Parke and Symphony No. 5 by commissioned Vermont composer Robert (Zeke) Hecker.

Each year the orchestra alternate's performing high school and college student and faculty pieces. One Vermont composer is also commissioned once per year.

"We're so lucky and fortunate to have the auditorium at the college and get full support of the orchestra," Michael Finckel, symphony director said.

After Bach's concerto, Washiyama will perform a violin solo. She's been an instructor at Bennington College since 2005 and studied at Kyoto University of Music and Art in Japan.

The symphony by Mahler was written in 1899 and reveals the perspective of a child in heaven. The last movement of it is sung by soprano voice, or Ryer-Parke.

Ryer-Parke has experience in several styles of music including oratorio, opera, early music and new works of folk, jazz and rock. She has been the Bennington Children's Chorus director since 1994 and the Bennington Voice Workshop since 2002. She has worked with Sage City in the past, Finckel said.

The performance will end with Hecker's symphony that is "not about anything other than itself," according to his composer notes. There are three movements, and the first starts with a passacaglia, which is an early 17th century Spanish piece most often based on bass-ostinato.

"Unusually for him, Mahler didn't write any parts in his symphony for trombone or tuba, so I asked Michael if I could add those, and he said yes," Hecker said. "It feels kind of good to out-Mahler Mahler. It's like having the biggest box of Crayola crayons to play with."

Hecker said that his piece fits into the orchestra like a puzzle, but will let the audience decipher how it does, which adds to the interactive experience.

There are about 55 musicians in the orchestra, according to Finckel. They typically play "hot off the press" pieces, newly composed or others from the Renaissance and other time periods. Finckel said there is no overarching theme to the chosen pieces.

Sage City relies on donations. The orchestra performs at no cost, but audience members are urged to attend the benefit dinner. For more information visit

—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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