The encore to Saturday's Baroque by Candlelight concert by the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra was a lush dessert bar, but the concert may have been even sweeter.
The ninth-annual concert, a tradition around Valentine's Day, showcased three talented soloists playing three audience-friendly concertos. Trinity Lutheran Church proved to be a perfect setting for the concert, with its ornate woodwork and high ceilings that helped bring out the orchestra's rich sounds.
The first piece was "Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach, featuring Larisa Elisha on violin and Margaret Marco on oboe. The first movement of the work absolutely shone and perhaps was the highlight of the concert. The orchestra and soloists blended beautifully on the interplay among parts.
That seamlessness continued through the Adagio movement, with the hand-offs between Elisha and Marco providing for a seamless, lyrical line. There were a few intonation issues when the soloists hit unison notes, but they were usually on sustained notes and were corrected promptly.
The third movement, while feeling like it dragged from its original tempo in a few spots, provided a stoic ending to the concerto.
Next up was "Concerto in D Major for Guitar" by Antonio Vivaldi, performed by Beau Bledsoe. Bledsoe brought impressive sensitivity to an instrument not necessarily known for its expressiveness.
Unfortunately, the faster movements of the work - the first and third - especially suffered from balance issues. It was difficult to hear the guitar, and the loud portions featuring the orchestra had to back off too dramatically for the guitar to be heard at all.
The balance was better on the second movement, and Bledsoe played the movement beautifully. In the third movement, Bledsoe's mastery of the technically challenging, lilting notes was apparent.
The third and final work was "Concerto No. 2 in E Major for Violin" by Bach, again performed by Elisha. If there was a moment in the concert that lacked energy, it might have been the first movement. That in itself says something, though - even when the orchestra wasn't at its best, it still produced an amazing, recording-quality sound.
In the second movement, Elisha used her beautiful tone to create swelling, dramatic - almost pleading - lines. In contrast, the final, pulsating movement featured Elisha with lightning-fast ornamentation.
This night was really about the soloists, and the orchestra - directed by Elisha's husband, Steven - provided excellent support for them. The instrumentalists were precise and provided a full sound for only being 13 players.
The orchestra, unfortunately, is probably one of the better-kept secrets in Lawrence. Hopefully, the word can continue to get out and that will change over time.