WESTFIELD, NJ — World-class music, a cozy setting filled with people you know, patriotism and children that sing like angels can combine like swirls in a peppermint candy, and feel a lot like home.
“It’s that wonderful time of year again, isn’t it?” said New Jersey Festival Orchestra music director and conductor David Wroe. “Where the scents, sights and sounds light up like a Christmas tree. But it’s the sounds we’re here for.”
The New Jersey Festival Orchestra (NJFO) held its “Home for the Holidays” concert at the First Presbyterian Church on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day, at 7 p.m.
To honor the veterans in the audience, as well as those who lost their lives fighting to preserve freedom, the orchestra performed music from “Victory at Sea” as a salute to Pearl Harbor Day. Before starting the piece, Wroe asked all the veterans in the audience to stand and led the applause of gratitude for their service.
Holiday favorites like “A Christmas Festival” and “O Holy Night” harmoniously captured the audience's’ full attention and made way to the “Skater’s Waltz, Op,” which was originally composed in 1882 to replicate in sound the graceful movements of Parisian figure skaters, as well as their falls.
After a short intermission, the NJFO transformed the whole church into a sleigh with its music and took the audience for a ride. At the end of the piece, Wroe uttered “Gitty up.” “Sleigh Ride” was reprised after the last song as a result of heavy applause and a standing ovation.
After the performance of “Ave Maria,” which included a solo by the violinist Anton Miller, the Franklin Elementary School Chorus made their way on to the stage. After a thumbs up from all members of the chorus to Wroe, they performed “Over the River” followed by a compilation of songs from the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The Friends of the NJ Festival Orchestra sold a golden treble clef to commemorate their first year as the New Jersey Festival Orchestra. (Formerly, it was known as the Westfield Symphony Orchestra.) Although the NJFO performs throughout New Jersey and New York City venues such as Carnegie Hall, Westfield remains the orchestra’s home and the First Presbyterian Church is one of its home venues. And like any prized star home for the holidays, coming out to see them in person is a must, supporters say.
“It was a sellout tonight,” said NJFO Marketing Director Elizabeth Ryan, “and we expect New Year’s Eve to be a sellout as well.”
A rarity for most orchestra performances, about one-fourth of the audience was made up of young people, according to Ryan. Whether you have been following the NJFO from their commencement or just attended your first performance, their music can leave an everlasting effect, listeners said.
“It was amazing,” said first-time attendee Courtney Torres. “I was so intrigued by all the different sounds of all the different instruments. I especially loved the flautist's solo.”