The two programs don’t precisely compete.  The global faculty and students attracted by the South Shore Conservatory’s Festival represent a different tier from the Alumni Orchestra, overlapping in skill level and career track, but distinct from one another.

I caught the Festival’s opening concert.  Conductor Dr. Nicholas Palmer and the orchestra presented a Pops program of symphonic music that spanned a variety of musical genres.  The Evenings Under the Stars Festival Orchestra includes a number of South Shore Conservatory faculty members, joined by Tian Lu performing Maurice Ravel’s Concerto in G for piano and orchestra.

Lu won first prize, solo competition, at last year’s Festival and easily won over her audience at the PAC.  Ravel’s piece, and Lu’s performance, filled the hall with the swirling, sometimes roiling music of fully mature impressionist music.  Unlike the popular, almost humorous exercise of “Bolero,” Ravel’s concerto reminded me of Debussy’s “La Mer” or his “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.”  Lu’s performance was crisp and fluid, and made full use of the PAC’s beautiful Steinway piano.

In typical Pops fashion, the concert included works from around the world.  Palmer and his orchestra played Johann Strauss’s waltz “On the Beautiful Blue Danube” as if they were born to the famous Vienna “Lilt.”  The cadence is hard to describe, but easy to hear – nearly syncopation that lifts the ¾ time of a waltz out of the realm of beer drinking song and into a floating spin for dancers, musicians, and audience members alike.

The orchestra’s rendition of a medley from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” reminded us of the depth, power, and interest of Bernstein’s musical, composed at a time when a hit Broadway show might have four or five smash melodies, not just one.  It was easy to understand why the show has been revived in New York.  The performance of John Williams’ “E.T., Adventures on Earth” earned a well deserved spot in the show.  Program music at its best, Williams’ work brought all the images from the film back to life – I could nearly hear the laughter of the flying children in the family science fiction film.

Free concerts – student recitals – remain as the Festival winds up today, July 22 at 4:30 pm at the Ellison Center for the Arts on St George Street, tomorrow at the same place and time, and again next Wednesday and Thursday at the same place.  The Festival’s Faculty Concert ($25) is scheduled for 7:30 Friday, July 24 at the Ellison Center and the Winners Concert ($45) the following Friday at the same place and time.  Contact the South Shore Conservatory at 781-749-7565, extension 14 for ticketing information, or go online at www.duxburymusicfestival.org.    

Meanwhile, the Southeast Alumni Symphony Orchestra prepares for its PAC concert on August 5.  I’ll write about it again in a week or two, but for now I want to point out that Duxbury music lovers are blessed with an embarrassment of riches in the summer.  And speaking of links, webs, strings and connections – you may be in for a treat at the SASO concert.  A percussionist (me!) has threatened to come out of retirement to play, for the first time before an audience, with a symphony orchestra.  I’ve played with brass bands, but never with an orchestra, never with strings.  I look forward to the chance.  But don’t worry.  Someone else will handle the mighty and well-timed cymbal crashes.