The Savannah Philharmonic Chamber Concert Series will go over the top and dramatic on April 8 to present its final concert of the season, “Virtuosity at its Finest.”
The concert at Trinity United Methodist Church on Telfair Square will feature Savannah Philharmonic’s concertmaster Sinisa Ciric, chorusmaster and pianist Monica Dekle, principal flautist Jeana Melilli and principal oboist Andrew Ripley. Selections will include Jules Demersseman’s “Duo Brilliant for Flute and Oboe” from Rossini’s “William Tell,” Francis Borne’s “Fantasy on Bizet’s Carmen” and “Sempre libera” from Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
Ripley played the bagpipes before switching to the oboe in high school.
“It’s important to my family that we all did music, and the oboe is the instrument that called to me the most,” he says. “I love the oboe. It’s got a nostalgic feeling to it.”
Ripley received a Pennsylvania Governor’s Scholarship to attend the Interlochen Arts Camp. He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Juilliard School of Music in New York City and also has studied oboe at Indiana University.
In addition to performing, Ripley helps arrange the chamber music shows, including the current concert. He also works with the Savannah Philharmonic’s outreach program.
“I was in the Savannah Symphony Orchestra, and when it ended I moved away for a while,” Ripley says. “When the Savannah Philharmonic Orchestra began, I moved back. I’ve been here ever since. I love Savannah.”
At the Philharmonic series: Read about Ripley’s alter ego as a bartender here.
The concert will feature a number of pieces, Ripley says.
“There are salon pieces from the late 1800s in a romantic style,” he says. “Some pieces tend to be reductions of opera. It’s quite an expense to put on an opera.
“Some pieces are reductions for a single performer and a pianist and have a virtuoso, sentimental style to them. These pieces are pretty technical with a lot of technical fireworks.
“It has kind of a feeling of going to see an opera, but it’s all condensed into a more intimate space,” Ripley says. “It has the high drama we don’t always get to do as instrumentalists. It’s over the top and dramatic.”
Melilli also has been with the Savannah Philharmonic since its beginning. She began studying music at an early age.
“My mom put me in piano when I was around 5 years old,” she says. “I liked it and kept playing. By the time I was 9, I wanted to be in the band.
“I wanted to play the French horn, but I wound up playing the flute and loved it. I loved practicing and playing.
“I was pretty much hooked at the age of 11,” Melilli says. “I couldn’t imagine doing any other thing.”
Melilli worked with former members of the Savannah Symphony. She has been the principal flautist for the Savannah Philharmonic since its inception.
“I had ties to Savannah to some extent,” she says. “There was a ‘La Traviata’ production that the Philharmonic Chorus put on and I played piccolo.
“Peter Shannon liked my playing,” Melilli says. “When the Philharmonic was started, I got asked to come play.”
In addition to working with the Savannah Philharmonic, Melilli is the piccolo/third flute for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the South Carolina Philharmonic. She also is an extra musician for the Atlanta Symphony, Atlanta Opera, Charleston Symphony and other orchestras throughout the Southeast.
“I’m one of the few lucky freelance wind players,” Melilli says. “The first position I won was with the South Carolina Philharmonic.
“It’s a crazy life on the road,” she says. “You have to invest in a good car. They’re all really wonderful small communities that love music.”
A year and a half ago, Melilli moved to Brunswick.
“Having grown up in Atlanta, the change was wonderful,” she says. “It’s nice to be on the coast where everything is slower and prettier.”
At the upcoming concert, Melilli will play Francis Borne’s “Carmen Fantasy.”
“The flute doesn’t have many great 19th century pieces,” she says. “The instrument we have now was invented halfway through that century.
“Some pieces were composed for the new instrument to sell it. Borne took themes from ‘Carmen’ and made it a fun, virtuosic piece.
“It’s also a really showy piece for flute players,” Melilli says. “It’s a rare opportunity to show I can do these really cool tricks.”
Concertgoers will have plenty to enjoy, Melilli says.
“Andy Ripley always has such an interesting program,” she says. “This one is no exception.
“He and I get to play together and it also is a 19th century virtuosic piece,” Melilli says. “To get to hear and see Andy show off and to hear Monica play is fun. The audience will recognize a lot of melodies and hear lots of fun, exciting music.”
A historical performance advocate, Melilli is a founding member of Savannah Baroque and the Vista Ensemble.
“Some of my favorite performances have been in the intimate setting of the Savannah Philharmonic’s Chamber Series,” she says. “This April’s ‘Virtuosity at its Finest’ is no exception.
“Nineteenth-century European audiences loved small, virtuosic pieces performed in their salons, so this concert’s program is perfect. I look forward to hearing my colleagues perform with flair.
“My own piece is full of familiar themes from Bizet’s ‘Carmen,’ set in fun, technically challenging snippets that audiences have loved for over a century,” Melilli says. “These pieces are an excellent, flashy way to end our chamber series for the year.”
IF YOU GO
What: Savannah Philharmonic's Chamber Concert Series: “Virtuosity at its Finest”
When: 5 p.m. April 8
Where: Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.