“OLLI ooh la la” delightfully mixes fairy tales, scandalous songs, a sleepy satyr, and a dance of faraway lands with a conductor who also performs. OLLI Orchestra’s free concert of imaginative and charming (mostly) French music takes place Sunday, November 19, at 2 p.m.
The concert features the music of Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy, Jean-Philippe Rameau, Eric Satie, and German composer Georg Philipp Telemann. OLLI, Nevada County’s Community Orchestra, rehearses and performs at Sierra College in Grass Valley. The group formed in 1978. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) adopted it in 2005. Maestro and violist Wayland Whitney came aboard in 2022.
“Ma mère l’Oye” (Mother Goose) by Ravel was originally written for students. Ravel later rewrote the suite for orchestra. Storybook themes include those ofSleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, and Beauty and the Beast. “What is most intriguing about this suite is the way in which very simple textures for young pianists assume a marvelously profound quality,” wrote musicologist Wm. E. Runyan. “The movements exhibit Ravel’s sophisticated use of ‘exotic’ musical materials, including pentatonic scales and quartal harmonies.”
Maestro Whitney performs the dual role of conductor and soloist, playing Telemann’s “Viola Concerto in G Major.” “Telemann’s concerto was the first ever written for the viola,” says Whitney. “It’s a charming, tuneful work that does not overstay its welcome.”
“Les Indes Galantes” by Rameau is presented first. In 1725, French settlers in Illinois sent Chief Agapit Chicagou, along with five other chiefs, to Paris. There the group met with King Louis XV, to whom Chief Chicagou presented a letter pledging allegiance to the crown. The group later performed three dances for the French court, inspiring Rameau’s work.
“The Rameau performance by our percussionist Tynowyn Woolman might shatter the ceilings,” says Whitney.
Debussy’s symphonic poem “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) is one of his most famous works. It’s considered a turning point in the history of Western music–marking the beginning of modern music–as well as a masterpiece of Impressionist composition.
Maestro Whitney admits that the piece is difficult to perform, “It never settles down. Debussy wants the listeners to feel like they’re between two realms. Even at its most groovy, you can’t find the groove.
Whitney continues, “The music speaks to a deep, hidden place within us all, a place of emotional rather than cognitive understanding.”
Singing in French, OLLI’s Beverly Marks will perform two risqué Cabaret songs, “La Diva de l’Empire” (The Diva of the Empire) and “Je Te Veux” (I Want You) with music composed by Satie. Marks has played violin in OLLI Orchestra since 1982.
Although the concert is free, you must register for tickets. Seating is limited and OLLI concerts fill up quickly.
OLLI Orchestra’s concert “OLLI ooh la la” takes place at 2 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room N12 at Sierra College, 250 Sierra College Dr., Grass Valley, on Sunday, November 19. Parking is free; there will be signs at the college entrance pointing to the venue.
Although the concert is free, you must register for tickets. Registration is easy and it’s not necessary to print your tickets. Space is limited. Visit OLLI Orchestra’s website, https://www.olliorchestra.org/events for complete concert details or go to bit.ly/olliconcert.