by Michael Caruso
The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia recently announced the appointment of Janelle McCoy as its new executive director. Originally from rural North Carolina, the Chestnut Hill resident leaves a similar post at the Mendelssohn Club, one of America’s oldest choruses, and assumes her new position as the Chamber Orchestra begins the celebration of its 50th anniversary. The orchestra was founded half a century ago by Marc Mostovoy and was originally known as the Concerto Soloists of Philadelphia.
During McCoy’s tenure with the Mendelssohn Club, she helped to quadruple the choir’s income and was instrumental in securing grants from major arts-funding organizations. She helped produce initiatives that sponsored new works and helped develop creative programming that met with enthusiastic audience response.
Speaking about her new position, McCoy, who described her age as “in the uncomfortable over 40 club,” said, “I have had a long relationship with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, both as an artist (an admired mezzo-soprano) when founder Marc Mostovoy was here, as well as when I had to hire the best orchestra available to play for Mendelssohn Club concerts in Philadelphia.
“What I admire about the Chamber Orchestra is its capacity to be nimble and to attract the best musicians from New England to the Mid-Atlantic, not to mention incredible soloists. Top that with a world-class music director in Dirk Brosse, and anything is possible … I feel that I can help position the Chamber Orchestra for our next 50 years.”
Regarding the Chamber Orchestra’s appearance at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts with Josh Groban, McCoy, who is herself a widely admired mezzo-soprano, said, “Josh is one of those rare artists that crosses genres. He’s highly regarded in pop, classical and world music, and is closely followed by millions of fans. It’s an honor to appear with him. Even more, I see this as an opportunity whereby we can highlight our versatility.”
The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia opens its Kimmel Center season with “Di Wu Plays Mendelssohn” Sept. 14, 2:30 p.m. and Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m., in Perelman Theater. Wu will perform Mendelssohn’s “Piano Concerto No. 2 in D minor,” and Dirk Brosse will conduct the Overture to Verdi’s “La Traviata” and Beethoven’s ‘“Pastorale’ Symphony N. 6 in F major.” Visit www.chamberorchestra.org.
AT THE MANN
Midway during Josh Groban’s Aug. 27 Mann Center concert with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, I couldn’t keep myself from comparing it to the June 26 performance at the Mann by Il Volo and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Both Groban and the Italian vocal trio bring the sound of classically trained voices to mostly pop music. And each was accompanied by a classical orchestra. The similarities, however, were only skin-deep.
Il Volo’s management wisely engaged the Orchestra’s associate conductor (and newly-minted Chestnut Hiller) Cristian Macelaru to function as the concert’s overall conductor, thereby insuring the presence of a local musician familiar with the Mann’s acoustics and amplification system. That was not the case with Groban’s management. The results were a perfect balance throughout Il Volo’s concert and imperfect balances throughout Groban’s. Whereas Il Volo’s repertoire was ingeniously chosen to highlight the three singers’ voices and personalities and was comprised of not a single song that fell short of top-of-the-line material and arrangement, Groban’s program was half-filled with insubstantial drivel and only offered high quality music twice – songs from Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” and “Merrily We Roll Along.”
The pity is that Josh Groban not only possesses a beautiful baritone voice but he knows how to use it expressively. Which, of course, raises the questions: Is his management really not aware of when and why he’s at his best, and why don’t they insist that he regularly sings songs worthy of his obvious and prodigious talents?