From adagio to scherzo, residents of Homeland Center enjoyed a real treat on the first day of November – an intimate performance from renowned Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra musicians led by Maestro Stuart Malina.
The mini-concert was a sort of command performance, requested by residents as part of Homeland’s 150th anniversary celebration. In May, legendary newsman Charles Osgood, visiting as keynote speaker for the anniversary gala, sat at Homeland’s Steinway grand piano and regaled residents with quirky ditties. Seated at that same piano, Malina coaxed the intricate compositions of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the keys.
The program opened with Beethoven’s Piano Trio #1 in E Flat Major, played by Malina, HSO Concertmaster Peter Sirotin on violin, and cellist Daniel Pereira.
“You’re going to hear beautiful melodies, which Beethoven did very well, and wonderful shifts of energy,” Malina explained. “Beethoven was a very stormy guy and had sudden shifts of emotion, and you hear this reflected in the music, but generally, it’s a very playful piece.”
The program dispensed with many traditional concert formalities. Audience members cheered each movement and Malina would stand to explain the upcoming movement. Even a call for maintenance over the loudspeaker in the middle of the music brought a smile to the charismatic conductor’s face.
HSO Principal Violist Julius Wirth joined the group for Mozart’s Piano Quartet #1 in G minor, full of “incredibly soulful and incredibly human music,” Malina said.
“Some people have said in the course of history, among known geniuses, Mozart is one of the one or two greatest of all,’’ Malina said. “From a very young age, he was playing multiple instruments. He spoke seven languages by age 5. He wrote his first symphony when he was less than 5 years old.”
“Right!” echoed resident Isabelle Smith, the former executive director of Homeland in the 1970s.
When the musicians gently closed the quartet’s slow adagio movement, Malina told the audience, “I heard an ‘ah,’ and I have to say, that really is the only appropriate response.”
At program’s end, Homeland residents and visitors marveled at the performance.
“What a treat! What a treat,” said Carolyn Kunkel, an Honorary Life Member of Homeland’s Board of Managers, which helped organize the group’s appearance. “It was just gorgeous.”
Irene Baird had arrived at Homeland five days previously for rehab from surgery.
“It was superb,” she said. “Way back when, I was involved with the Friends of the Symphony. I’ve always been very much a fan. I’m very impressed with the fact that it has been brought to Homeland.”
Resident MJ Muro proclaimed the concert “magnificent.”
“It was spellbinding,” she said. “I can’t believe that they’re just humans doing that. Oh, my gosh, that was fabulous.”
While the audience raved about the musicians, Malina raved about the “amazing audience – attentive, quiet, respectful. It was a complete success. I’m thrilled. Many of these people don’t have many chances to hear live music, and that’s a great gift. It’s nice to be able to provide that.”
The fact that residents requested the concert “warms my heart,” Malina said. “They come in vans every time we have a concert, so we have a nice connection to Homeland.”
Smith declared the concert “awesome” and said it was probably a first for Homeland. Residents, she said, “love anything that’s going to bring happiness to their home. It’s a happy home.”