Every year in July, as classical music migrates towards bucolic summer festivals, the city’s bustling music scene experiences a large collective diminuendo.
Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Christopher Wilkins, conductor
But it’s neither as large nor as collective as it once was, thanks to the vision of the late Charles Ansbacher, founder of the Boston Landmarks Orchestra, which presents a summer series of free weekly classical music performances at the Hatch Shell.
Last night, the orchestra opened its series with an all-Copland program played beneath cloudless skies for an audience of some 9,000 people, according to a Department of Conservation and Recreation estimate provided by the orchestra. Organizers said it was the ensemble’s largest opening night crowd to date. In short, some two years after Ansbacher’s death, the Landmarks Orchestra, now under the direction of conductor Christopher Wilkins, seems to be robustly carrying forward its founder’s vision of musical populism.
Under Wilkins’s direction, the orchestra has also renewed its emphasis on connecting directly with residents of Boston’s many neighborhoods — a focus that produced tangible results last night in the debut of the orchestra’s “One City” choir (Holly Krafka, director) with members drawn from community choruses across greater Boston. Joining the orchestra and the veteran Boston baritone Robert Honeysucker, himself in burnished voice, the choir performed selections from Copland’s “Old American Songs” with musicality, skill, and gusto.
Wilkins also led the orchestra in a supple account of “Appalachian Spring” alongside selections from “Billy the Kid” and “The Tender Land.” The entire program benefitted from the use of a new sound system
Among the evening’s musical guests was Armand Diangienda, founding conductor of the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste in the Democratic Republic of Congo, newly famous after a profile on “60 Minutes” told the remarkable story of the ensemble he built amidst poverty and war. Diangienda received the first Charles Ansbacher Music for All award and took the podium to lead Copland’s setting of the Shaker tune “Simple Gifts,” earning an ovation from many in the crowd.