Mimosas and Mendelssohn: What a swell party

The audience surrounded the orchestra at the Mendenhhall Inn on Saturday.
The audience surrounded the orchestra at the Mendenhhall Inn on Saturday. Chris Barber — Digital First Media

KENNETT >> The Kennett Symphony of Chester County, coming off a sold-out family concert in a new venue last month and looking toward another sell out on Sunday, ventured even further into innovation on Saturday by performing its concert in the round at the Mendenhall Inn’s Grand Ballroom.

And, again, it was sold out.

If there was one way to describe the mood, it was like that scene in the vintage movie “High Society” in which Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby were high on champagne and sang “What a Swell Party This Is” in the library of a Main Line mansion. It had class, but it had joy.

According to reports, the symphony organizers had never tried something like this before, but it’s safe to say, they had to have been satisfied with the outcome.

It was called “Mimosas and Mendelssohn,” and when the guests arrived they were greeted with hors d’oeuvres and a ticket for a free champagne cocktail. And just to sweeten the pot, there was cash bar open the whole time, and waiters were offering hot Tortellini Alfredo.

Advertisement

Inside the ballroom, the seats for the musicians were placed in the middle on the dance floor, and the audience chairs were in circled around them. Since there were no designated seats, the guests were invited to sit wherever they wanted, get up and roam around during the concert, and switch to another seat at halftime.

Now, the audience for most symphony conerts is somewhat sedate, but for this event with food, drink and intimacy with the musicians, people appeared quite relaxed. ... almost convivial.

And after the show, the guests and musicians mingled and talked casually.

Some admitted to never having attended a Kennett Symphony concert before, but suggested that they would be back.

Additionally, Maestro Michael Hall was the perfect host.

Dressed in a collarless shirt, no tie and a sports jacket, he put his audience at ease as he began the four movements of Mendelssohn’s “Symphony No. 4 Italian.”

Before each movement, he took the time to explain what was coming up and what to listen for, which was quite nice for many of the not-quite music aficionados who had arrived.

He also gave an account of Mendelssohn’s life, talents and trip to Italy, and throughout the concert there was a running video of scenes from Rome. To top it off, the music was melodic and sprightly, taking only an hour. Again, that lifted the spirits of those who were lifted to a festive spirit as they came in.

Most of the guests appeared to know very well how to handle and chat at a cocktail party, but their skills were tested when they found themselves holding on simultaneously to a glass of champagne, a plate of hors d’oeuvre, the program and their coats. The concert organizers outdid themselves with lovely glass plates and metal forks. Next time, however, they might want to try simple tea sandwiches. And it’s highly likely the crowd was feeling so jolly that they would have indulged them in plastic (disposable) plates and forks as well as little egg rolls or miniature franks in pastry. Who knows? They might have even been pleased with hot dogs and cheeses steaks.

If the symphony board is looking to expand its outreach, they succeeded. This is what people want. They felt good, the music was fun and nobody told them to be quiet. Music in Italy come from the streets, and it’s sung in little cafes on the back alleys. It’s in our souls and our bones.

For $25 a ticket, what a swell party it was!

About the Author

Chris Barber

Chris Barber is the editor of the Avon Grove Sun. She was previously southern bureau chief of the Daily Local News and editor of the Kennett Paper, earning honors in writing and photography. Reach the author at agsun@kennettpaper.com .