The bass section of the Pine Bluff Symphony:
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Four times a year, Charles Jones Evans, aka Dr. Evans, aka Maestro Evans, aka Charles, aka Charlie, strolls out on the stage of the Pine Bluff Convention Center auditorium, ascends the podium, hoists his baton, and gives the 65-piece Pine Bluff Symphony Orchestra the downbeat to start the Star Spangled Banner.
My dear friends, if you have never been in the same room with a full-bore symphony orchestra playing our national anthem, do yourself a favor and aggressively seek the opportunity. The goose-bumps will subside normally but the hair on the back of your neck won't go down for ten minutes.
Charles Evans waves his arms with the best of them. Respected nationwide for his conducting acumen, he is the antithesis of the temperamental maestro stereotype. He is a regular guy who just happens to be a fine conductor and interpreter of music. He explains each composition in detail before he mounts the podium. You know what's coming after the downbeat.
Now in its twentieth year, the Pine Bluff Symphony begins every concert with the National Anthem. Without being told to do so, the audience chimes in warbling the Grand Olde Hymn and doing it well. Not many folks outside the LA (lower-Arkansas) region associate this corner of the state and nation with first-class symphony orchestras, but then they've been wrong about other things as well.
The woodwind section: Two flutists and an oboist have a few bassoons behind them. The rest of the orchestra is what you would expect — brass, percussion, and other instruments that are needed for a specific composition.
The Pine Bluff Symphony is living proof that it is not necessary for a city to boast multiple commas in its population figures to nurture a real, live symphony orchestra. In this case, the symphony is not just a "big-band" with a four-concert season. The organization provides musical support to local schools, sponsors a youth orchestra, rents instruments to children at well-below market rates — and even will make instruments available to children from families who cannot afford instrument rent.
All of these undertakings are seen to by a loyal and active corps of volunteers. A working board of directors steers the organization in the right direction. After 20 years, it seems to be working well.
N O T E S:
Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog. — J. D.