The enchanting sounds of The Metropolitan Orchestra of New Jersey filled the sanctuary Sunday afternoon at the Community Congregational Church in Short Hills, as the orchestra took its audience on to trip to another musical era. Led by conductor Michael Stratechuk, the orchestra’s performance was titled Gershwin and Friends. The ensemble is currently celebrating its 39th season and its second in Millburn-Short Hills.
Performing to a full house of attentive listeners, the orchestra played popular compositions by Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Cole Porter. Medleys filled the first segment of the concert with the ensemble performing a Cole Porter Suite and Porgy & Bess medley, both arranged by John Whitney.
During the "Duke Ellington Medley for Orchestra," arranged by Calvin Custer, the musicians performed the popular “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”
Throughout both songs, the ensemble successfully merged a big band sound with orchestral arrangements. Pianist Mark Yolleck was featured during variations on Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm.” The orchestra’s rendition of this classic tune involved subtle tempo changes, playful percussive elements and a spotlight on oboes, the xylophone, tuba and strings. Yolleck shined in an easy-moving piano solo that transitioned from classical to jazz-inspired. Yolleck then treated the audience to Gershwin’s “By Strauss,” a composition that wasn’t originally on the program.
The orchestra closed out the afternoon of heart-warming music with the Gershwin standouts “An American in Paris Suite” and “Rhapsody in Blue.”