The Florida Orchestra’s chamber concert series begins Friday at a new venue – Clearwater’s 98-year-old Church of the Ascension, an imposing white monument to classic gothic architecture with 28 pictorial stained glass windows (some more than 100 years old) and a 75-foot-tall carillon with 49 bells.
It is, says TFO associate conductor Chelsea Gallo, the ideal sort of listening room for classical music performed by small groups.
“It’s quite an enterprise to move an 85-piece orchestra into a space and do any type of concert,” says Gallo, “but when you break it down, you’re able to literally infiltrate smaller, more intimate settings. And there’s a lot of great music, fantastic music, written for this size of ensemble.”
Friday’s opening concert includes Julian Yu’s chamber arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Gallo will also conduct Beethoven’s Septet for Winds and Strings in E-flat major.
Seating is limited for the 8 p.m. Church of the Ascension concert – there are, after all, so many pews available – and it’ll be repeated Saturday at 8 p.m. in a more familiar (and rather less intimate) venue – the Palladium Theater’s Hough Hall.
Many of the TFO musicians, during the season and in the off months, enjoy participating in small chamber groups and playing in alternative venues. A symphony orchestra, Gallo explains, “creates intimate moments on a grand scale.”
Creating smaller, more delicate moments on a smaller, more delicate scale, she adds, is an essential part of every symphony player’s continuing education. “In order to play great Mahler, you have to be able to play a great Opus 18 Beethoven Quartet. It’s just that simple.”
There’s more. “There’s the actual human need for a more intimate observation of art,” Gallo says. “I’ve always found that, yes, it’s great to go to the Louvre, it’s great to go to the Guggenheim, but some of the smaller museums give you the opportunity to experience art on a different level. When you’re around fewer people, when you get to be alone with your thoughts in a little bit more literal way.
“And I think the parallel happens in music with chamber performances. There’s something about not having too grand of a space to wonder too much, and worry too much about the whole of existence, and just to be in that moment.”
The “Soundwaves” chamber series continues with concerts in March and April:
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice & More: Chelsea Gallo conducts Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Saint‐Saëns’ Danse Macabre, Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks and more. Thursday, March 9, 8 p.m., Church of the Ascension; Sunday, March 12, 2 p.m., Palladium Theater.
Michael Francis conducts Bruckner’s Seventh: Friday, April 21, 8 p.m., Church of the Ascension; Saturday, April 22, 8 p.m., Palladium Theater.
Tickets for all concerts are here.