The snow in Easton does not stand a chance against the sunny sounds of Latin jazz. On Tuesday, Feb. 22, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, a Grammy Award-winning classical ensemble, will be performing a Cuban-inspired program at the Williams Center with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval.
According to cellist Jim Wilson, the orchestra’s artistic director, Orpheus is well-known as the first orchestra to eschew having a conductor, resulting in an “orchestra of leaders.” Without a conductor, the orchestra functions via a democratic leadership model. Many roles within the orchestra are elected, including Wilson’s position as the artistic director.
“Everybody uses group communication and meetings and such to make decisions,” Wilson said. “That’s the way we rehearse. That’s the way the whole organization functions.”
Wilson described this democratic approach as “incredibly fulfilling” because every member has a say in the orchestra’s decisions.
“In performance, everybody’s playing at about 200%, which is really different from other orchestras I’ve been in before,” Wilson said.
The orchestra’s unique style seems to have paid off. Last year, Orpheus won a Grammy for their album with Wayne Shorter. Next performance season, the orchestra will be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Just as accomplished is their accompanying musician Arturo Sandoval, a Cuban-American jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer who has toured with Dizzy Gillespie and performed at the White House and Super Bowl. According to Wilson, Sandoval will form the “nucleus” of the performance with Orpheus.
Orpheus and Sandoval’s performance at the Williams Center next Tuesday will consist entirely of pieces that were either written or arranged personally for the orchestra. They will perform Gershwin’s Cuban Overture, Sandoval’s second concerto for trumpet, a piece by Cuban pianist and composer Aldo López-Gavilán, an Ernesto Lecuona y Casado piano suite arranged by Jannina Norpoth and more Cuban-inspired pieces.
“It’ll be tremendous fun. Cuban music is just so infectious and joyful and thought-provoking because the rhythms are very complex. The music has this mixture of joy and sadness at the same time and I think it’s something that people in this country really respond to,” Wilson said. “So it’ll be an unusual program. Really, really enjoyable with some fabulous solos.”
Because Orpheus is best known for performing classical music, Wilson recommended that everyone listen to this lively and unique Cuban-inspired performance while they still can.
“We’ll be having as much fun as the audience will when they listen to it,” Wilson said. “I hope that comes across…the audience will be hearing a brand new program that’s never been done and probably never will be done again.”
Tickets for the show, which will be at 8 p.m., are free for students and are available to the public for $35 and to other students and youth for $6. Tickets can be purchased on the Williams Center for the Arts ticket website.