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'Three Conductors' create musical magic at Britt

John Trudeau was the primary founder of the Britt Classical Festival in 1963 and led its orchestra until 1987. James DePreist took over when Trudeau retired and led the orchestra until 1992. He was succeeded by current maestro Peter Bay.

On Sunday night in Jacksonville, the only three people who have held the title of Britt conductor and music director took turns on the podium for a special Three Conductors concert celebrating the festival's 40th anniversary.

A crowd of 1,400-1,500, some of whom were in Jacksonville 40 years ago, enjoyed a memorable performance, truly fitting for the occasion.

Both Trudeau and DePreist received enthusiastic standing ovations ' Trudeau as a thank-you for starting it all back in 1963 and DePreist for putting on a remarkable show, leading the orchestra in the evening's most dramatic and difficult work.

The concert began with Bay, the orchestra's leader for the past decade, conducting the brief but lively Orchestral Fanfare by Robert J. Erlebach.

Erlebach has been the principal timpanist with the San Jose (Calif.) Symphony for 35 years and held a similar position with the Britt Orchestra from 1968 to 1983, and was at Sunday night's concert. He composed Orchestral Fanfare for brass quintet in 1986, adding the orchestral version in 1998.

The other works on the program were all by the famed Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky (1840-1893).

Bay also conducted Tchaikovsky's Waltz from Eugene Onegin, one of his operas, completed in 1878. It's a pleasant, sometimes toe-tapping piece, about five minutes long.

Then Trudeau took the podium for Tchaikovsky's familiar Overture-Fantasy from Romeo and Juliet, first completed in 1869, revised in 1880.

The piece begins quietly, grows stormy with the conflicts of the Montagues and Capulets, then flows into the beautiful love theme of Romeo and Juliet.

Trudeau, conductor from Portland, first spotted the Britt hillside, along with friends, in 1963, and felt it would make a good concert site. He returns from time to time.

Following an intermission, DePreist conducted the orchestra of nearly 100 members in the four movements of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F Minor, Op. 36.

The 50-minute work, composed in 1878, is noted for its festive conclusion with numerous cymbal clashes.

DePreist, who retires this year, has been an internationally acclaimed conductor of the Oregon Symphony and others in the U.S. and abroad.

While Bay and Trudeau each made introductory remarks, DePreist went right to work. His many years of world-class work were quite evident, and shouts of Bravo! could be heard as the performance concluded.

Trudeau and Bay eventually joined DePreist and the orchestra on stage for a final, enthusiastic ovation.

The Britt Festivals season continues tonight (Monday) with a performance by Daniel Rodriguez, The Singing Policeman. Rodriguez, of the New York Police Department, became famous for his uplifting renditions of patriotic selections following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He's been seen and heard at the World Series, Winter Olympics and elsewhere.

With him will be Tom Scott, conducting members of the Britt Orchestra in such songs as If I Loved You, The Impossible Dream and You'll Never Walk Alone.

Tonight's concert is at 8 p.m. Tickets are &


36;32 reserved, &

36;23 lawn, &

36;10 children, and are still available.

The Britt Dance Festival follows, with three performances: the Sean Curran Dance Company, 8:30 p.m. Thursday; Suzee Grilley Dance Ensemble, 8 p.m. Friday, and the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 8 p.m. Saturday.

Call 773-6077 or 800-882-7488 for tickets.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelin@internetcds.com.