Tag Archives: Punta Gorda Florida

The Peace River Wildlife Center

One of the most visited places in Punta Gorda – and certainly one of the most special – is Ponce de Leon Park and the Peace River Wildlife Center.  This year, the fine folks who run this wonderful organization have become partners with the Charlotte Symphony.  Here is an article I wrote for the January 2016 issue of symphony magazine, TEMPO, telling our patrons all about it!

The Peace River Wildlife Center ~

The Symphony’s new community partner!

 TEMPO visits the PRWC

Long before human beings lifted their voices in song, or played instruments, or composed the glorious music we enjoy at our Symphony concerts, there was the music of the natural world! Birds of all kinds filled the air with their tones. Whales sang their haunting calls from the depths of the ocean. Our human music is inspired by nature, inextricably connected with its rhythms and we, here in Southwest Florida, are blessed to be surrounded by both!

This season, our Charlotte Symphony Orchestra welcomes a new partner in the Peace River Wildlife Center.  The Center is familiar to everyone who lives here in Punta Gorda and one of the most popular attractions for our visitors.

“The most important work we do here is the rescue and rehabilitation of wildlife”, says Callie Stahl the Center’s Operations Manager. Most animals that come to us are either injured or displaced because of human action. Our work is an attempt to restore to nature what humans have harmed.”

Callie is a native of Florida and was a music major at Florida State University, until she changed her career goals to working with animals and worked as a veterinary technician for several years. In 2009, she came to the Center as a re-hab specialist and then became Operations Manager in 2012.  “When I came here, I realized this is where I belong. There is something new happening every day and always something to learn,” she shared during my visit in October.

Our meeting was attended by a gorgeous Great Horned Owl named Bella.  Perched on the back of Callie’s chair, this huge bird occasionally seemed to doze off, only to become wide eyed when a passerby snapped her photo. “She seems to have a bit of attitude” I offered and then learned that she just had her nails clipped and was ‘put out’. Bella had been rescued by another facility as a nestling and released when grown. However, she was soon reported to be going around a neighborhood, house-to-house, ‘asking’ for food! Callie said, “She had imprinted with humans early in life and, even though she still has a hunter’s instinct, she has no idea it’s about survival.” So, to the Center she came and that is home.

The most famous of PRWC’s residents is Luna, the tiny white owl that is now the organization’s mascot and best spokesperson “on the road”.  He is adorable and has his own very attractive cage home in the office.  “Lu” as he is called by the staff, is often seen at meetings, luncheons, and parties around the county when everyone can snap a photo and coo over his cuteness.

While I was visiting, a local couple brought in a heron with a broken wing and another brought a soft-shelled turtle that had been hit by a car. Both couples were so happy to have rescued these creatures – it was obvious it meant a great deal to them. I could see how working in this lively place would become addictive!

Though the rescue and re-hab work is the Center’s primary intent, Callie quickly adds that the concurrent goal is education. The partnership with the Symphony will bring Callie and the Center’s resident veterinarian Dr. Robin Jenkins with some of the Center’s animals to school visits with Maestro this season. This will enrich the Symphony’s art/music school program based on the Carnival of the Animals, and will certainly add excitement and anticipation for the season’s Youth Concert, at which the work by Saint-Saens will be featured!

Callie commented that working with children is particularly important because they learn at an early age to respect animals and all of nature. They grow to be more aware and concerned adults regarding the environment and the connection of all life on our planet.

“Sometimes we can also affect adults who are not too set in their ways. Awareness is the key. So often, people just don’t know. I will get a fearful call saying there’s a bobcat in someone’s yard: “what should we do?”  I tell them to watch and enjoy – be thankful there are still bobcats in our midst. Generally they disappear as quickly as they appear.”  Callie went on to say that when visitors see animals at the Center, they get to know them –personally. Their stories, their personalities. They are no longer just some ‘critter’, they are up close and personal – and that often changes how people feel about them.

At the end of our visit, Callie remarked about the Center’s working environment, “Everyone involved with PRW is here because of their commitment to the work we do, because of their love for wildlife. There are no egos, no agendas, none of the squabbling you see in so many groups. We have the most wonderful staff, volunteers and Board – all kindred spirits with the Center’s best interests at heart. Our goal is to expand the Center to include an education facility – where families can come and learn about the wildlife of the region and become better stewards of our ecosystem.”

The PRWC is a critical component to the culture and texture of life in Punta Gorda. Its mission is simpatico with the environmentally conscious nature of our residents and, thankfully, support for its continued growth is powerfully strong.

Visit Peace River Wildlife Center on Facebook and learn about their rescued animals and events and visit their website at peaceriverwildlifecenter.org.  The Center collects certain recycled items and in need of specific supplies on an ongoing basis.  A great way to make financial contributions is shopping on Amazon.  Go to Smile.Amazon.com and select Peace River Wildlife Center as your charity.

Maestro visits PRWCIMG_4166



“Gustoso ” Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, January 25, 2015

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

“All that is important in this one moment is movement.  Make the moment important, vital, and worth living.  Do not let it slip away unnoticed and unused.” – Martha Graham, Choreographer

Kenneth Fuchs, Discover the Wild

 Fuchs is a contemporary American composer, born in 1956, who received his B.A. in Music from the University of Miami, and went on to complete his masters and doctorate work at Juilliard. His compositions include works for orchestra, band, chorus, and various chamber ensembles. A cursory survey of his compositions is impressive, but my interest was piqued by those whose inspiration came from literature – including novels and poetry by John Updike, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Yeats.  A particularly notable work is his transcendent composition Falling Man, based on the novel of the same name by Don DeLillo, evoking the very personal tragedies that unfolded in the aftermath of the World Trade Center disaster.

Tonight’s offering is Discover the Wild, a bright, engaging opening which expands to a beautiful, lyrical, almost cinemagraphic romantic second theme. The third section weaves the first themes with a fresh approach and ends with a light, optimistic finish. Notice the variety of percussion instruments and textures throughout.

Though this composer and his music may be new for many in our audience, there is a comfortable familiarity to our ears with influences of Copland, and other popular contemporary American composers. Don’t be surprised if you hear passages that bring to mind one of your favorites!

Manuel de Falla, El sombrero de tres picos Ste. No. 1 & 2

Born in Cadiz, Spain in 1876, Manuel de Falla is the most distinguished Spanish composer of the early 20th century. This reputation is largely attributed to two Iberian ballet scores: El Amor Brujo (Love, the Magician), which includes the popular “Ritual Fire Dance”, and El Sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) which he wrote for the Ballet Russes.

With regional success in his early career in Madrid, particularly for Andalusian Flamenco, de Falla moved in 1907 to Paris, where he lived for seven years and discovered the world of French composers Debussy and Ravel. The profound influence of these years inspired his first piano pieces and songs, and gained him status among international Impressionist composers. His exposure to Stravinsky during this time also inspired the incorporation of neoclassic style in later compositions. De Falla is still considered ‘hard to classify’ as either Impressionist or Neo-Classic.

Formally retired in 1926, having produced a relatively small body of highly regarded work, de Falla was able to remain apolitical during the Spanish Civil War, living in Granada and continuing to work at a lesser pace. Following Franco’s victory in 1939, de Falla moved to Argentina, where he taught, worked on his pet project Atlantica, adamantly refused requests to return to Spain and died in 1946.

On tonight’s program, we are treated to two Suites from El sombrero de tres picos.  Based on a novella, which involves a powerful magistrate who has a lustful eye for a humble miller’s wife, the story is a humorous tale of flirtation, disguise, reconciliation and comeuppance. The Spanish–inflected music is filled with colorful folk tunes, sultry Latin attitudes, sharp Spanish rhythms, fanfares, birdcalls, soaring string melodies – all designed to tell the story in dance.

Aram Khachaturian, Spartacus, Ste. No.2

Born to poor Armenian parents in Tbillsi, Georgia, June 6, 1903, Khachaturian showed early musical prodigy that eventually opened the doors to the Moscow Conservatory, an introduction to Sergei Prokofiev and the beginning of a prolific career. Though his brightest talent was expressed in symphonic composition, he also made significant contributions to the ballet, dramatic plays and films. The composer was among those who walked the fine line of approval and critique from the Stalin regime. Ironically, his first ballet Happiness was reworked during World War II as the patriotic ballet Gayaneh, with its famous “Sabre Dance.”

In 1954, Khachaturian wrote the ballet music for Spartacus, loosely telling the story of the slave uprising against the Romans and its heroic leader. It was staged three times before the 1968 version secured its place as one of the composer’s greatest popular works and one of the best ballets of the 20th century. The sweeping, lush main theme is familiar and beloved.

Joseph-Maurice Ravel, Daphnis et Chloe, Suite #2

Ravel was born in 1875 in the Basque town of Ciborne, France, near the Spanish border, and his mother had grown up in Madrid. Though his family moved to France when he was an infant, the Spanish influence in his music is apparent. Ravel was among the most prominent French composers considered Impressionist, a style of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The term is also applied to the compositions of Debussy, DuParc, de Falla in Spain and John Ireland in England, and is linked to the art of Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. True in both the art and music worlds, Impressionism is evocative of moods, atmospheres and feelings – one could say that the music ‘sounds like’ the art and the art ‘looks like the music”.

Ravel is known particularly for his melodies, masterful orchestration, rich harmonies and inventive instrumental effects.  Perhaps best known of his compositions is Bolero, originally composed for ballet, which the composer described as “a piece for orchestra without music” and is instantly recognizable by its incessant theme, which is repeated throughout the piece and intentionally is never ‘developed’.

The Greek tale of Daphnis and Chloe involves a boy and a girl who are abandoned by their parents and raised by shepherds. The two meet and gradually fall in love as they grow up. After various trials, the two are reunited with their families and married to each other. This popular story was the main source for Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and inspired many musical compositions.

Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe was commissioned in the early 1900s by the Ballet Russes and its wildly successful impresario Sergei Diaghilev. Igor Stravinsky called the work “one of the most beautiful products of all French Music”. Tonight we will hear Suite #2 from the ballet, which Ravel remarked was his ‘most important score’. This is a work of lush harmonies typical of the Impressionist style.  Listen for the familiar strains borrowed for the writing of  “You can see forever” from the musical On a Clear Day.

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.  Photograph credits: Steve Lineberry













Program Notes

Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, December 7, 2014

by Sherry Campbell Bechtold

Carl Nielsen, Symphony No.3, op. 27 (Sinfonia espansiva)

Nielsen was one of 12 children, born in 1865 to parents of modest means on Funen, the “garden island” of Denmark (also the birthplace of Hans Christian Andersen). His musical experience began when, at the age of 6, he was bedridden with measles. His mother took one of his father’s violins off the wall and gave it to the boy to keep him occupied. He began composing at 9, attended the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen on scholarship, and worked as a professional musician for years before the success of the first of his popular symphonies in 1896 truly launched his composing career. He worked incessantly both conducting and composing throughout his life, ignoring signals from his body to slow down.  In October of 1931, he was finally hospitalized against his will, forced to lie in bed and listen on the radio to a substitute conductor perform a concert of his music. He died a day later and all of Denmark mourned the loss. At his funeral, his wife commented that his nature “never stagnated, was always on the move….it was running water.”

Nielsen named his Symphony #3 ‘Espansivo’, perhaps referring to the international breakthrough it represented for the composer. Many have speculated what other meaning was implied in the name; biographer Robert Simpson has written that it suggests the ‘outward growth of the mind’s scope and the expansion of life that comes from it’ and Nielsen’s belief that ‘great art, although forged from the private fires that burn inside an artist, seeks to grow beyond its origin and contribute to humanity’s collective experience.’

This explanation seems consistent with the composer’s philosophy and certainly his ideas of movement and organic development are embodied gloriously in this work. We feel as though we are on his “garden island” – a fresh wind from the sea, capturing and carrying the fragrances of flowers, orchards, trees in a vast waltz, always moving and transforming, leading to new variations and new motifs.  We hear the wordless voices of two soloists, soprano and baritone, intermingling with the forces of nature, as they soothe and calm the temperamental wind.

Even as the third movement quickens the heartbeat with its building sense of urgency, in the end the clouds part and the sun shines once again. We are reassured and left with an uplifting feeling of peace and exhilaration.

Giuseppe Martucci,  Notturno,No. 1, op.70

Born in the Campania region of Italy, Martucci was a child prodigy performing at the age of 8, and a student at the Naples Conservatory at 11. Although he began to compose as a teenager, concentrating on instrumental music and songs, he is best known for his work as a pianist, conductor and educator (Ottorino Respighi was his student). Atypical of Italian composers, Martucci wrote no opera and was influential in reviving Italy’s interest in non-operatic music, in particular giving exposure to the music of Debussy, Berlioz and Wagner.

The great conductor Arturo Toscanini performed many of Martucci’s works with the NBC Symphony Orchestra between 1938 ad 1952. Last season, we recall Maestro Ponti introduced this audience to the composer with the performance of his Symphony #1.

The Notturno we hear tonight was originally written for piano in 1891, followed by the enchanting full orchestral version in 1901. It has become his most widely performed work. Musicologists and critics have described this piece as ‘delicate’, ‘refined’, bittersweet’, ‘tasteful sentimentality’, ‘smooth Italian lyricism’, evoking ‘a mood of wistful introspection’. All of these words are certainly suitable….but ‘deliciously gorgeous’ feels right to me.

Ottorino Respighi, Feste Romane, P. 157 (Roman Festivals)

Respighi learned piano and violin from his father in his childhood home of Bologna in the 1880’s. His musical studies continued throughout his youth with a number of notable teachers in Italy and Rimsky-Korsakov in Russia. Well into his career as composer and conductor, he was appointed as teacher of composition at the Conservatorio de Santa Cecilia in Rome, where he lived the rest of his life. His body of work is an impressive mixture of Orchestral, Chamber, Vocal/Choral, Opera, Ballet and Orchestral, for which he is best known. His crowning glory is the spectacular trilogy of tone poems: Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome and Roman Festivals, the third and most ambitious of the three and the thrilling conclusion of tonight’s concert.

Written toward the end of his career, Respighi said that this work represented his “maximum of orchestral sonority and color” and upon its completion stated “I do not think I shall write any more scores of this kind.”

Opposed to the settings of Fountains and Pines, which are a sparkling tour of modern day Rome, Festivals graphically depicts scenes dating back to antiquity and brings us to the traditional celebrations that have survived millennia. The first movement Circuses brings us to the arena, gladiators, trumpet fanfares and the violence of pitting beasts against man. In the second movement, we experience the Papal tradition of Jubilee, celebrated every 50 years since 1300. It is easy to imagine being with the pilgrimage to a sacred site at the top of a hill, enjoying a breath-taking view of Rome with church bells ringing in the background. Harvest of October paints the scene of harvest and the hunt,  a French horn solo signifies day’s end and a mandolin plays a serenade in the twilight.

Finally, we celebrate Epiphany in the Piazza Navona with trumpets once again raising a riot of Roman songs and dance, food and drink. Notice the solo tenor trombone and envision a reveler who has stayed a bit too long at the party!

Program Notes are the property of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra are posted here by permission from the Orchestra and the author.  Photograph credits: Steve Lineberry