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Out of the pit

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There is a strong bond between the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra and the Connecticut Lyric Opera - and not just because Adrian Sylveen is the artistic director and conductor of both outfits.

In performance, the former group typically provides the musical backing for the onstage vocalizations of the latter. But, on Sunday in New London's Garde Arts Center, the chamber orchestra headlines their own New Year's Concert.

"Yes, we're usually in the pit for the opera," laughs Sylveen. "But this time it's the chamber group onstage, and that will be a lot of fun. Plus, it's the holiday concert, and we think the selections will make a lot of people happy."

The ambitious program includes several popular and lesser known works by Strauss and Mozart, as well as pieces by Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Gounod and Offenbach and even Gershwin and the Beatles. There are waltzes, a clarinet concerto, and arias from operas and operettas.

"It's been a difficult time in the last year, and people have been struggling a bit financially," Sylveen says. "So this is a joyful program. One of the main purposes of art is to provide for society, and we have to lead but, at the same time, we have to bring joy. With this concert, we are bringing music that lets people forget their troubles for the moment, if nothing else."

Established in 1997, the Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra is certainly one of the region's finest chamber orchestras, including about 20 musicians and performing up to 30 concerts annually.

Guest performers joining the orchestra for the holiday concert are soprano Trina Renay and clarinetist Thomas Labadorf. Renay has sung throughout the U.S. and Europe and is a graduate of the Peabody Conservatory.

In addition to a current position with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Orchestra, Labadorf has been a member of the Manchester Symphony and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.

"We have probably one of the best orchestras I have heard or worked with," says Sylveen, who is also conductor of the Classical Orchestra of Pila in his native Poland and is a virtuoso violinist. "I've worked extensively in Eastern Europe, and that music is extremely rich in many ways. (The Virtuosi) provides that sort of context and artistic idea. At the same time, it's a very flexible orchestra and we're not limited by any means. We play a full season of balanced concerts."

The New Year's concert is a growing and increasingly popular production, Sylveen says - which is a testament as much to the audience as it is the orchestra.

"We never underestimate our audience," he says. "If you provide beautiful music, they will come. We don't expect people to know everything technical that we do, but they appreciate and like the music and can sense that, as an orchestra, we like each other. We like playing with each other, and there's a definite chemisty, and it's a joy to see the audience feed off of that."

r.koster@theday.com

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra's New Year's Concert

WHEN: 6 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Garde Arts Center, 325 State St., New London

HOW MUCH: $25-$50

INFO: (860) 444-7373

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