• Oct 17, 2021 Masterworks I

    Program Notes by Lee Dise

    Please scroll down to read about each piece on our program.

    RAVEL: Bolero

    Featuring Ballet Virginia, Choreographed by Lydia Roberts-Coco

    Ballet simply means "to dance." Dancing has been with us for a long time -- even birds and spiders do it. However, as an art form, ballet originated in Italy during the Renaissance as a particular style of dancing. Eventually it evolved into a sort of concert dance, in which it was set to music. King Louis XIV of France established the Paris Opera Ballet and appointed Jean-Baptiste Lully as its director. (On a downbeat note, Lully is also famous for being the first conductor ever slain by a self-inflicted conducting wound. He'd conduct by banging his staff energetically on the stage floor, and one of the bangs landed energetically on his foot, which got infected and killed him.)
    Paris had become a great arts center by the 19th century and ballet was a big part of it. Dance lovers appreciated it for the art form, musicians for the paychecks; and wealthy patrons for the opportunity to watch the pretty ballerinas. Ballet became so popular that even the Paris Opera insisted that every opera performed there must contain a ballet. Even the great Richard Wagner was forced to comply. He agreed to add a ballet to his opera Tannhäuser. However, he added it to Act I instead of the customary Act II. Thus, the fashionably-late audience arrived after the dancing. This caused a bit of a riot.
    Ballet soon spread to all parts of the globe and became less formalistic. Today, ballets can feature jazz, rock, symphonic works not specifically composed as ballets, or any music that is danceable. Today's concert features one symphonic selection that was originally intended for dancing and two that weren't.
    Maurice Ravel (1875–1937) had a keen appreciation for dance music and composed several ballets, including Daphnis et Chloé (1912) and La valse (1920). Ida Rubinstein, a famous actress and dancer, commissioned him to compose a dance movement for her, and it became his most famous piece, Bolero. Even though he lived for several more years after its premiere, it was one of Ravel's final works. His closest friends had already noticed that he was becoming more and more absent-minded. This led to later speculation that he was already suffering from the progressive cognitive illness that eventually eroded his ability to communicate or compose music. Some have wondered whether this illness may have been what sparked his interest in repetitive music.
    Bolero is certainly an exercise in repetition. The stately 3/4-time rhythm, reminiscent of a polonaise, does not vary. There are two themes centered around C: a serene diatonic melody, and a jazzier, more dissonant one. Rather than develop the themes more conventionally, they are simply repeated over and over. Ravel relied instead on scoring and dynamics to entertain the listener's ear, with a gradual build-up of volume and sonorous density. The solos are distributed very democratically; even the trombone (!?) gets one. And the saxophone makes a rare orchestral appearance.
    Though Bolero quickly became an audience favorite, Ravel himself didn't seem all that impressed with it. Ravel wrote somewhat modestly, "[Bolero] constitutes an experiment in a very special and limited direction, and should not be suspected of aiming at achieving anything different from, or anything more than, it actually does achieve" -- or as we might say today, it is what it is. At times, the composer seemed more puzzled than pleased at its reception. When told that a woman in the premiere audience had shouted that the composer was mad, Ravel replied that she understood the music. When he heard it performed by Arturo Toscanini and the New York Philharmonic, he went backstage and complained to the maestro that his tempo was too fast. Toscanini shrugged, "It's the only way to save the work." Whatever its compositional issues may be, it does give the orchestra's principal players a rare opportunity to shine together within one selection.

    CHAMINADE: Concertino for Flute & Orchestra

    Featuring Amber Kidd, flute and Ballet Virginia's Hayley-Ann Vasco as soloist, Choreographed by Suzanne Lownsbury

    Cécile Chaminade (1857-1944) was a French pianist and composer -- a contemporary of Debussy and Ravel in terms of chronology if not style. Her compositions earned the respect of prominent composers such as Georges Bizet and Ambroise Thomas; Thomas said of her, "This is not a woman who composes, but a composer who is a woman." She was quite popular in her day, and toured successfully throughout France, Britain, and the United States. Chaminade wrote the Concertino for Flute in D minor in 1902 for her lover at the time, a flute player; however, he married another woman. According to Geoffrey Wieting of the Boston Musical Intelligencer, "Chaminade crashed the wedding reception and gave the Concertino to her former paramour as a wedding present. She later received a formal thank-you card from the bride’s mother... with a death threat scrawled on the back." The Concertino contains the sweeping melodies and lush harmonies of the French Romantic style -- more Saint-Saëns than Debussy. Eventually, France's trendy audiences turned away from Chaminade's romanticism in favor of the up-and-coming "Impressionistic" style, but her music maintained its popularity in Britain and the United States for some time.

    TCHAIKOVSKY: Serenade for Strings

    Featuring Symphonicity Strings

    During the Romantic era, everything just got bigger -- bigger orchestras, bigger scoring, bigger pieces. A string orchestra is the Costco version of a string quartet. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) composed his Serenade for Strings around the same time he was also writing his 1812 Overture, together forming sort of a musical Beauty and the Beast. Tchaikovsky wrote to his wealthy patroness Nadezhda von Meck: “The [1812] Overture will be very loud, noisy, but I wrote it without any warm feelings of love and so it will probably be of no artistic worth. But the Serenade, on the contrary, I wrote from inner compulsion. This is a piece from the heart...” The Serenade was first publicly performed in 1880 and was well-received. Tchaikovsky's teacher Anton Rubinstein was generally more inclined to criticize than praise (all musicians have had teachers like that); however, he was uncharacteristically effusive in his enthusiasm for the Serenade.
    There are four movements.
    • Sonatina -- Tchaikovsky was self-consciously trying to imitate Mozart's style; this movement features a very hymn-like melody.
    •  Valse -- contains the work's most famous melody; this waltz is deceptively complex.
    •  Élégie -- a more somber and reflective variation of the Valse theme.
    •  Finale (Tema russo) -- based on Russian folk song and ends with a restatement of the hymn-like melody from the Sonatina.
    The Serenade stands alongside the "very loud, noisy" overture among of Tchaikovsky's most popular works, and has often been transplanted from the concert hall into the ballet's orchestra pit.
  • Lydia Roberts-Coco

    Choreographer for Bolero

    Ms. Lydia began her training in Norfolk, Virginia. She began her professional training with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center with a full scholarship. Ms. Lydia was invited to become a member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble; Ailey’s junior company where she danced for three years. She then went on to perform with the Jamison Project under the direction of Judith Jamison for one year. Ms. Lydia was also invited by Judith Jamison to dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She toured internationally as a principal dancer with the AAADT for seven years. Her credits include leading roles in Pas De Duke, Night Creature, Fix Me Jesus from Alvin Ailey’s signature piece Revelations, Suite Otis and many others. With her partner Desmond Richardson, Lydia traveled abroad to perform Pas De Duke (a ballet created for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Judith Jamison choreographed by Alvin Ailey) for various guest performances.


    After retiring from AAADT, Ms. Lydia taught ballet, modern and jazz at the Russell School of Ballet (home of the Fairfax Ballet in Fairfax, Virginia). She was on faculty with Virginia Ballet Theatre for three years where the enrollment in Modern classes tripled under her direction. She also choreographed pieces for Virginia Ballet Theatre and VBT II. Ms. Roberts Coco toured with Athletes for Kids as a faculty member reaching out to inner city youth through dance.


    Currently, Ms. Lydia teaches modern, ballet and pointe at BVI. Her choreography has been chosen for annual SERBA Festival performances for several years in a row from a select group of highly regarded choreographers. Lydia also serves as an adjudicator and instructor for the West Virginia Dance Festival and as a guest instructor for both Old Donation School in Virginia Beach and the Gloucester Ballet.

  • Suzanne Lownsbury

    Choreographer for Concertino for Flute & Orchestra

    Ms. Lownsbury began her training with the Toledo Ballet and Charlotte Regional Ballet, continuing her studies in Tidewater Ballet Association’s residency program under the direction of Gene Hammett. Suzanne embarked on her professional dance career with Cleveland Ballet as a trainee, progressing to soloist and principal roles within a year. For the next 11 years, she danced professionally for the Cleveland/San Jose Ballet. Her many featured roles included Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Maria and Tzarina in Dennis Nahat’s renowned Nutcracker, Swanilda in Coppelia, the title role in Giselle and many neo-classical roles.
    Suzanne joined Virginia Ballet Theatre in 1994, dancing such roles as the Greedy One in Three Virgins and a Devil, as well as Lucy in the world premiere of Dracula. She also joined the VBT Academy faculty, becoming Assistant Director in 2000. Her teaching credits include School of Cleveland Ballet, Cleveland City Dance, Evelyn Ott School of Dance, and Virginia Governor’s School for the Arts.
    In the spring of 2008, Suzanne set out on a journey with Janina Michalski to create Ballet Virginia with the support of many devoted and dedicated parents. She is proud to be the Co-Artistic Director of Ballet Virginia along with Janina, and is looking forward to many successful years with the Academy and Company seasons. Suzanne is also extremely proud of her daughter, Jacquelyn Long, who is an alum of Ballet Virginia and is a member of Houston Ballet Company.

  • Amber Kidd

    Flute Soloist for Concertino for Flute & Orchestra

    Amber Kidd has held the position of Principal Flute in Symphonicity for over 25 years, and is also principal flutist for the Tidewater Winds, as well as performing with various chamber ensembles. She has also performed with Virginia Symphony, Virginia Todi Music Fest, Millennium Symphony, Tidewater Dinner Theater, and Opera New York. Raised primarily in Virginia Beach, she graduated with honors from James Madison University, earning a music performance degree. At JMU, she studied with Carol Kniebusch Noe, and earned the opportunity to perform in a Geoffrey Gilbert masterclass, as well as performing as a soloist with the Shenandoah Conservatory symphony orchestra. Although she has performed with many inspiring musicians over the years, she considers herself most fortunate to perform regularly with her longtime teacher and mentor, Frank Jones.

  • Musicians

    Megan Van Gomple, Concertmaster
    Cindy Bryan, Assistant Concertmaster
    Lynette K. Andrews, Principal Second Violin
    Summer L. Cozzens
    Kylen Doubt
    Danielle J. Fagan
    Anjoli Ferrara-Clayton
    Satoko Fukasawa
    Howard I. Horwitz
    Irene Kohut-Ilchyshyn
    Alexandra Marlins
    Nikki Nieves
    Nick R. Raykhman
    Justin Stanley
    Adam Symborski
    Stephen Fisher
    Holly Martin
    Edo Mor
    Rebecca Willett
    Christopher Sacra
    Martin Glasco
    Andrew Dack
    Shirley Luu Smith, Principal
    Margaret A. Brown Honorary Viola Chair
    Daniel Austin
    Linda G. Dyer
    Ryan Featherer
    Brenda Johnson
    Leslie M. Savvas
    Kimberly Schuette
    Keara L. Smith
    Mary Ann Hughes, Principal
    Marguerite C. Alley
    Charlotte Dettwiler
    Fred Kovner
    Deborah Ramos-Smiley
    Kirsten Rowe
    Geoffrey Ware, Jr.
    Rachel Keene, Principal
    Rebecca Brown


    Amber Kidd, Principal

    Erika Frydenlund (Piccolo)

    Frank Jones



    Harvey Stokes, Principal

    Sandra Richards


    English Horn
    Rena Long



    Jo Marie T. Larkin, Principal

    Lee Cooper


    Bass Clarinet
    Alan J. Brown


    Stephanie Sander, Principal
    Suzanne Daniels


    Soprano Saxophone

    Brandon Waltz


    Tenor Saxophone

    Rob Deis



    Ellen Polachek, Principal

    Christine Foust, Assistant Principal

    Beverly Losick

    Becky Peppard



    Ben McCarthy, Principal

    Chad McGill

    Denise White

    Heath Losick



    Jay Larkin, Principal

    Phil Sloan


    Bass Trombone

    Jeffery Beckett



    Adam Robles



    Vince Zentner



    Glenn Smith, Principal



    Aaron Cook

    Wesley Coombs

    Fermata Club

    Andrea Boothe, Fermata Club Coordinator