Beethoven and Bellinis: A review

Director Michael Hall conducts the Kennett Symphony Orchestra at the “Beethoven and Bellinis” concert on Sunday.
Director Michael Hall conducts the Kennett Symphony Orchestra at the “Beethoven and Bellinis” concert on Sunday. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

KENNETT >> The Kennett Symphony’s “Beethoven and Bellinis” program on Saturday afternoon at the Mendenhall Inn was a concert that combined the pleasures of music, food, drink and conviviality all in one event.

On the musical menu was the Seventh Symphony, which Beethoven wrote and released in the early 1800s. At its première, Beethoven was noted as remarking that it was one of his best works.

Director Michael Hall cradled the music in a presentation that was crowd-friendly, explaining before each of the four movements what the audience was about to hear and what they should listen for: the rhythms, the volume, the history, the major and minor keys, the mood.

Additionally, he added visual illustrations on movie screens at each end of the room — sometimes showing the sheet music of what was to come, and other times sketches of Beethoven and historic scenes.

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What was unexpected to many was the elation and energy that came with the fourth movement. The orchestra played it vigorously and drew a standing ovation from the guests.

But there was more.

Each audience member was entitled to hand in his or her ticket stub and for a bellini (or other choice of drink). Some people said they weren’t sure what that drink was, but it sounded like a good alliteration for the word “Beethoven” in the concert title. When the folks were presented with this peach juice and prosecco mix in a stemmed glass, they found it sweet and consumed it eagerly.

Hors d’oeuvres were also passed by servers and laid out on various tables around the atrium and ballroom. Some stations even held warm quesadillas. The availability of the food and drink prompted an atmosphere in which people caught up with old friends and conversed awhile before the music started.

Afterward there was coffee and moist brownies.

The geography of the concert also begat the mood.

The orchestra members played in the middle of the ballroom, surrounded by the audience. The arrangement implied to those who had come that they were actually invited to be part of the concert itself. It brought to mind the experience that diners have when they attend an Italian trattorias with singing waiters: the food, the drink, the singing and the sociability become a total experience.

Hall helped that atmosphere along by announcing that people were welcome to get up and walk around between movements, and even change seats if they chose to.

It brings to mind the many movies and Broadway musicals that have a scene in which the actors sit back and revel in the success of the party they just attended. Think of Sinatra and Crosby in “High Society” (“A Swell Party”), or Pickering and Higgins in “My Fair Lady (“Tonight, Old Man, you did it.”)

Bellinis and Beethoven was another one of those well orchestrated events, just as “What a Night; What a crowd” was in Phantom of the Opera.

This Kennett Symphony concert at Mendenhall was appropriately sold out and drew the audience and their senses into the music.

It was a “swell party.”

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .