A sampling of emails, notes, and good old-fashioned letters!
"You're right, I may never again be content with the keyboard version of the Goldberg Variations, though Glenn Gould's playing of them inaugurated my love of Bach. The permanent imprint from the February concert derives almost as much from your program notes as from the music itself. I'm xeroxing them and sharing them with all the friends who were unfortunate or foolish enough to have missed your concert. The string version allows the music to unfold so that its components can be appreciated more easily. I hope you're planning to record it!!!! Your permanent fan,"
—F.F., San Francisco
"I have been listening to the Goldberg Variations for several months, first Perahia's versions, and then both of Gould's. They're all beautiful, with Perahia's being my favorite. Your concert was the most amazing musical experience of my life, and since then I've been listening to versions by the NES Chamber Orchestra, (not as good as yours!) and a version by Canadian Brass, which I was skeptical of but ordered anyway, and which I now love. I listened to samples of a woodwind version, but the bassoon seemed to dominate the arrangement—bad engineering, maybe.
"No, I will never be as happy with the keyboard version as I am with either the string or brass versions. The harmonies are much more apparent to my ears and more beautiful than with keyboard versions, and there's a depth with the different timbres that is missing on a piano.
"I have Robert Greenberg's lectures on Bach, several of which discuss the Goldberg Variations, but Ben Simon's presentation with examples at the beginning greatly added to my understanding. Huge thanks for that.
"Since I discovered your orchestra through Classical at the Freight, I haven't missed a single East Bay performance. Your music has enhanced my life tremendously, and the Goldberg Variations were the peak—so far. I'm looking forward to more."
"Deeply rewarding presentation! The enlightening introduction, the fine quality of the musicians, the top-notch skill of the conductor—all worked together to present Bach's exquisite music. Thank you for a memorable musical event."
"Yes! I was there with my 16 year old son and let me start by saying thank you so very much for making such a wonderful experience available to us. As a single parent household, we live on a tight budget and don't often get to experience such marvelous talent, so it was especially appreciated. My son (who has passionately stated that he prefers non-lyrical instrumental music), really enjoyed the explanation on the piece immediately prior to the performance. He was humming that bass line the rest of the week! Thanks again for enriching the community!"
"I just came from this concert in Berkeley—it was wonderful! What struck me most was that you had so many beautiful endings. Bravi!"
"It was exquisite overall. The violin concerto and the playing thereof was one of the most moving pieces I have ever heard. The tonality and the sentiment were just superb. By the end I was crying and could not speak (a rare thing for me!). It was most memorable. Thank you, Robin and the orchestra.
"Please pass this message on to Ben because I felt that he and the orchestra were at an artistic high, at least that is my critical opinion. And please let Robin Sharp know that for me the Beethoven never sounded better, and I go back with it to Joseph Szigeti. Congratulations for the concert and best wishes to all for the New Year. You guys got us off to a great start!"
"The New Years Eve concert in Berkeley was SO outstanding it has inspired me to make a small donation in addition to our annual membership. I don't know when I have been so moved listening to Beethoven, though I am a frequent attendee at [many] concerts—both the SF Symphony [and] the SF Chamber Orchestra. So thank you for a fine end to 2011—and a spectacular beginning to 2012."
—B.A. & H.L., Berkeley
"Thank you very much for giving my children their first concert experience today. [We] thoroughly enjoyed your Holiday Show and were completely fascinated by the string orchestra, [Maestro] Simon’s engaging explanations, and the acrobatic interpretations by Circus Bella. My wife and I were very impressed by the high quality of the entire presentation, which enchanted my kids and the entire audience throughout the performance. We greatly appreciate your exemplary service to improving community wellness.
"As my wife and I looked around the diverse audience that completely filled the auditorium, we marveled that this was likely the first musical concert experience for many of the young children to enjoy with their parents. We appreciate that the musical concert was highly enriching and inspiring for children, and that the free-admission weekend performance is a tremendous opportunity for parents to connect with their children. Efforts like yours change and inspire our communities. Thanks again for providing such a wonderful holiday experience for our family!"
—C.C., San Francisco
"What a stunning and talented young woman captured my heart last night. I have never really felt the passion in Bach's piano music until last night. What a wonderment! And [Hilda] has a touch of Mozart's spirit at the tips of her fingers as well. I can't wait to hear more. I'm sure this will be just the beginning of my attention to Hilda's career. And what would we all do without Ben? He brings music to our lives the way it was meant to be enjoyed."
"Thanks so much for offering these concerts. We LOVE them."
"I went to my first “Classic at the Freight” on Monday, March 28. What was such fun (besides the music itself) was the bending of the usual classical musical traditions: Some of the performers were wearing jeans, but even more “shocking,” Ben told the audience that we could applaud whenever we want. Well, we DID want to applaud individual movements. What fun to actually be able to do that, rather than holding back because one “isn’t supposed to”!"
"Great to hear about the program at the Freight, and always a delight to receive your "Simon Says" postings. I must say, your friendly/fun tone combined with high standards of music making are a winning combination. Bravo—please keep it up!"
—W.V., San Francisco
"Your orchestra is our most favorite group to listen to! THANKS!"
—A.P., Los Altos
"Thank you for a wonderful event. My daughter (4 years old) and my parents all enjoyed it so much. I can't wait to attend more of these events. It was delightful, the emcee was great, the music was brilliant and the dancing superb! Bravo!"
—C.L., San Francisco
"I really appreciate your fun, accessible style and way of engaging the kids before and during the performance. As lovely as the music and dancing is, it helps kids connect even more to feel like the show is for them--with you on stage talking to them. And making them laugh."
"My seven-year-old daughter and I have been attending Bay Area concerts since she was old enough to see over the seat in front of her. She had always been excited to attend, but I have to say that you have spoiled this for us. She will no longer allow herself to be escorted to the ‘boring’ concerts hosted by conductors of so few words that they even refer to themselves only with their initials. Oh, no. She wants to hear you talk. She wants to hear you talk about the composers, the instruments and the people who play them. She likes the little jokes in between pieces. And all that smiling. Perhaps you are thinking this is good news. Sure, you are doing a great job: entertaining people, and even educating them at the same time. But stop and think about what you are doing to all the other performance groups in the area. I recently avoided what would have become a screaming tantrum of hers had I not been able to offload some Symphony tickets (Premier Orchestra Center, mind you) on Craigslist – at the last minute and at only a slight loss. She just won’t go see anyone else anymore. You’ve ruined her.