Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor

Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor

Edmond De Mattia, distinguished conductor of the Wind Song 5 offered a popular concert for the benefit the Salvation Army.  It was given at the chapel on Sunday this last May 24, 2015 at 1701 S. Tuttle Av. in Sarasota, Fl. The woodwind instrumentalists of the Wind Song 5 include Edmond De Mattia on oboe, David Lieberman on clarinet, John Stinespring on bassoon.  Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein   is the soprano/arranger of the group.  Her husband, David Ohrenstein is the composer/pianist.   The works they performed spanned from Mozart to  Scott Joplin; from opera to the Broadway stage. Several of David and Sharon’s acclaimed original theatrical works were also offered.


Maestro de Mattia recently gave a concert in the Cleveland with his musically acclaimed family. We were so honored to have them feature three of our original compositions. One in particular, we were told, brought the house down: The Iguana Farm. I actually composed it on the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras. An iguana farm is there where Iguanas are raised. Sharon skillfully arranged it for oboe and piano.  Their concert at the Lakewood Presbyterian Church this last September 20th featured Ed De Mattia on oboe. He is both the founder and president of the American Concert Band Association. His nephew, Alan De Mattia, also plays the French horn with the Cleveland Symphony. Richard De Mattia is the choir director and organist-pianist of the church. Sullen De Mattia was the flutist.


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The Sgro Brothers Race To Scott’s


With Harmonica virtuosos - The Sgro Brothers
David and Sharon with the world’s greatest harmonica virtuosos who tell the world’s best jokes – The Sgro Brothers


Why did the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s Oquaga Lake House? So they could hear and visit with the great violinist, ” Rubinoff and his Violin“.  How did this happen, you ask? It all goes back to the Southern Hotel in Colombus, Ohio where Rubinoff was staying.  He had just given a concert.  The Sgro Brothers were in the audience and loved it.  They were blown away by an incident that occurred during Rubinoff’s concert. While performing, Rubinoff heard someone talking. It happened to be someone backstage. Rubinoff lost his temper and began a five minute swearing tirade at the audience. He shouted at the full house: ” You so and so and so (blank, blanks, blank) –. You pay good money to hear me and have the nerve to interrupt my performance”…… (with his heavy Russian accent). The Sgro Brothers thought that at any moment audience would start pelting Rubinoff with rotten tomatoes. What happened? As soon as Rubinoff  finished his vitriolic tirade, the entire audience rose to their feet and gave him an enormous standing ovation. The following day the Sgro Brothers were performing at the same venue.  They invited Rubinoff to be a part of their act. He graciously accepted. Since this incident, they refer to him as “the master.”

Back to Scott’s Hotel. Ray Scott is the owner and proprietor of the Scott’s Oquaga  Lake House. It’s been in the Scott family since 1870. He knew that the brothers lived in Elmira, New York. It is not too far down the road from the Scott’s resort in Deposit NY.  For years, “Scotty” had been trying to get the brothers to come to the lake house, but unsuccessfully. Because of my association and  friendship with the Rubinoffs, Dave Rubinoff graciously agreed to play at the resort. Darlene Rubinoff, his wife, called the Sgros about two hours before the show. That is the reason for my blog about why the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s.   My concert with Rubinoff broke the ice. So the Sgro Brothers began coming back for many years to entertain and thrill Scotty’s audiences.

As a result, I was doubly happy. First that I brought Rubinoff. Second, that  paved the way for the Sgros. You can listen to that famous Rubinoff concert that the Sgro Brothers attended on the thumb video on the top of the 1st page. The year of that concert was 1984.




Our new music is being heard on Memorial Days thanks to the Sarasota Concert Band under the baton of William Barbanera.  We, David and Sharon, are writing new patriotic concert works. For  Memorial Day 2014, our new opus was named, Glory and Honor.  In a world premier, the Sarasota Concert Band joined ranks with Civil War re-enacters to perform the opus which included  gun salute effected The Civil War Re-enacters  shooting muskets.  The model, of course, is Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812.  The spectacle, including the smoke from the muskets being fired, can be viewed on the thumb video at the heading of our website. The conductor not only gives the concert band their cues, but he also points at the musketeers when it’s their turn to shoot. Sharon, the arranger, actually wrote the gun salute cues into the musical score.

 Our new music is heard on Memorial Days in 2015  for a second time.  We wrote wrote a march in two tempos for the Sarasota Concert Band entitled, “We Are One“.   It was inspired by the of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Beethoven inserted a Turkish March in his symphony in the middle of his choral work, Ode To Joy.  We created a march in 6/8 tempo that opens our work. Then the music transitions to our patriotic anthem: “We Are One”.  The lyrics and the full concert band arrangement were written by Sharon.  It was performed under the baton of Maestro William Barbanera with the full Sarasota Concert Band on May 25 of this year.  The singers in the above thumb video on the first page of the website are Allen Kretschmar (baritone), Baron Garriott (Tenor), Karen O’Shea (alto), and Sharon Ohrenstein (soprano, lyricist and arranger). As she so aptly says to me: “Without my work, you music would still be on the shelf.”

We are thankful to Maestro Bill Barbanera for the advice he gave us while we were writing the musical score. For example: Do not write quickly moving 16th notes for the flute or clarinet while the trumpets are playing. These woodwind instruments would not be heard Common sense, isn’t it?  Yes, but that’s what good conductors have. We are also very thankful to Mary Beth Stiber, President of the Concert Band Board; and her husband Don. He is an excellent trumpeter and band leader of his own group, Sarasota Gold. They have encouraged us and assisted us with these musical projects.  IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001


The story of how the Russian folk dancing by the Sarasota Ballet began in our musical, Elizabeth of Russia, goes back to a book that seemingly popped off a shelf decades ago. Wife Sharon was walking through Brant’s Used Book Store in Sarasota, Florida.  A book presented itself to her. The book was about Elizabeth of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great. Although she immediately wrote wrote a rough draft for the play, the idea then sat dormant in her mind for twenty years: After all, Russia, at that time, was called by some, “the evil empire” (viva la Star Wars). Finally, the Berlin wall came crashing down.  Sharon conferred with husband David. They teamed up and wrote the story, words, lyrics, and music. As a result, Elizabeth of Russia,  their first their joint musical, was born.  Elizabeth was not power crazed. She turned the throne down on several occasions, and just wanted to be with the man she loved- who was low born.  As a result, we are thinking of renaming the musical: The Princess and the Peasant.

Elizabeth of Russia saw its world premier at Players of Sarasota Theatre.  It had over 30 actors. The principle dancers of the Sarasota Ballet were employed.  Their incredible performance can be viewed in the thumb video above.  The dancers were a gift from a prominent Sarasota doctor.  On the initial date of this blog, it has had over 12,000 hits.

The sold out premiere also featured Rubinoff’s Stradivarius violin.  It was then played by Damaeon Pegis, a member of the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra. Rubinoff purchased the Strad in 1929 for $100,00,00. Today, some say it could be worth up to 5 million. The Strad, made in 1729, belonged to Czar Nicholas II.  It has the official crest and seal of Czarist Russia on the finger board. The crest, of course,  is set with diamonds and rubies. The history of the violin possibly parallels the recent hit movie, The Red Violin:  It has been speculated that it could have been in the same vicinity as Czar Nicolas II when he was assassinated.

Maestro David Rubinoff and David Ohrenstein performing live at Scotts Oquaga Lake House in Summer 1984



Since Rubinoff had past away, I had then had access to his violin through his kind and wonderful widow, Dame Darlene Rubinoff. She flew in with it from Houston . Check out my blogs on this website about the Rubinoffs.  Also, I posted a live concert that Dave and I gave in New York. At the time of the video, in 1984, he was 86 years old. The full concert is on the thumb video above. Don’t miss it.  I worked over 20 as Rubinoff’s arranger and accompanist. Right after he plays the first two notes, you know you are in the hands of a great master.

Elizabeth of Russia was then chosen to be an official event for the joint centennial celebrations of St. Petersburg Florida and St Petersburg Russia. They are sister cities.  The event happened at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg Fl.  Amy Schwarz- Morretti, at that time principle violinist with the Florida Orchestra, dazzled sold out houses by playing Rubinoff’s Dance of the Russia Peasant. She wanted to play the Stradivarius with such a passion that even though she was double booked on one of the nights; she left her nearby concert during intermission and had a waiting taxi by the back door of Symphony Hall. Then she was shuttled to the Palladium Theatre.  She played the violin. Then great maestro ran out its back door of the Palladium to her waiting taxi cab as the audience gave her a roaring, standing ovation.  Of course with her excellent musical timing, she made it back to the Florida Orchestra with time to spare, and masterfully played the 2nd half of the other concert. I will never get over thinking what a Stradivarius in the hands of a great master can do!

The Phantom of the Opera is Now a Boogie?

The Phantom of the Opera  is Now a Boogie?  Yes, and the sheet music is available for purchase on this website. Longevity has come to the  Phantom of the Opera  originally written by Gaston Leroux  as a French magazine series in Le Gaulois.  His first installment appeared September 23, 1909.  Some 106 years later, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s  version is still the longest running musical in the history of Broadway.  As a composer, I have chosen to add to the crest of the Phantom wave with a little help from Bach through his Toccata and Fugue in D minor. I have turned “The Phantom of the Opera” into the “Boogie Man of the Opera” which is available for purchase here.  This work, with its “entertaining version of horror and villainy” not only found its way into the Hollywood film of the Phantom of the Opera (1962) (picture below); but also earlier in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931); the Black Cat (1934) and later in Disney’s film, Fantasia.

Erik, The Phantom (Lon Chaney) and Christine Daaé (Mary Philbin)

I took Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor  and made it into a boogie-woogie!

The Phantom of the Opera is Now a Boogie? I took Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor  and made it into a boogie-woogie!  Since Bach loved experimentation, most “long-haired”musicians agreed that he would have approved of the project. I was living at the time with my wife and three children in  Toronto in a duplex at 68 Thursfield Cresent.    During cocktail hour I played the piano at the Prince Hotel in Don Mills and at night, I went around the corner and entertained during the dinner hour at the Duncan House.  However, as that winter of ’87  was ferocious, we were often home bound which gave me plenty of time for the project.  I’m including an excerpt for listening.  Until this last year, I have been playing piano in the  summers regularly in New York at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House in Deposit, NY. where my Bach boogie continually receives bravos.  This winter I will begin my 7th year playing the vintage Steinway pianos 6 nights a week at  Gasparilla Inn on Boca Grande in Florida (click on upcoming events).  I frequently close my evenings with the Toccata and Fugue a la boogie for the amusement and enjoyment of  patrons.


Octavian and Cleopatra Robby May; Sharon Lesley
The English opera”Octavian and Cleopatra” book and lyrics by Sharon Lesley Ohrenstein, music by David Ohrenstein 
Robby May as Octavian and  Sharon Lesley as Cleopatra – set against the backdrop of the Great Pyramid



          LOVE CONQUERS ALL IN OUR OPERA: OCTAVIAN AND CLEOPATRA where musical styles take turns.  The Roman point of view, through militaristic music, alternates with exotic and beautiful Egyptian melodies sung by Cleopatra and her ladies in waiting. Whereas the Roman style is more “foursquare”; the music of Cleopatra is languid, sexy and touches the heart.  As an unwilling Octavian becomes totally taken with Cleopatra, his angular Roman style changes to the Egyptian. At the end, he sings the beautiful aria, She was Egypt’s Queen as he recalls  her alluring charm and  female virtues.  In a subplot, a Roman captain is sent by Octavian to guard Cleopatra.  The captain also falls in love with her and plots his own escape with her. . The Captain’s hardened ways of war disappear in the presence Cleopatra as he sings the melodious aria of love which closes act one, In the Darkness.  The opera burned the midnight oil for two years and became a labor of love between the husband-wife team of lyricist-book writer Sharon and composer David.  Sharon has currently been orchestrating the work.  Look  on our website entitled dsoworks.com   under the heading of “Stage”. Then click on the Octavian and Cleopatra drop down for more information.

How I Encouraged Dave’s Marriage

Newlyweds Darlene and Dave
Newlyweds Darlene and Dave

How I Encouraged Dave’s Marriage: The ways of love are unknowable.  Dave went on a concert tour, and on a cold, snowy night in February; he was playing at a Lion’s Club in Hilliard, Ohio- a suburb of Colombus. At the insistence of Mark Azar, then a 10 year old boy, he and his mother came to hear the  Rubinoff and His Violin at that  concert. Earlier Mark had heard the maestro play for his school, as Dave gave free concerts for the children in the vicinity of his engagements.

Darlene fell in love immediately on hearing this grand violinist.  Then, after the concert, she wrote the following note on the back of her business card for little Mark to give the Maestro: “Dear Mr. Rubinoff: Tonight, at age 44, I know what love at first sight means. If I were free to do as I please, I would follow you everywhere.  Mother of eight- Darlene”.

Dave came back to Detroit to work with me and said; “I’m 73 and have just met a wonderful woman who is 44. Do you think I should marry her?” Without any hesitation I said “Why not?  Mr. Rubinoff then said, “She has 8 young children”.  I felt that Dave was in love with her, so I said: “It will be wonderful. Do it!”

And so, it was wonderful.  I feel that the Azar family, by their love and kindness, extended Mr. Rubinoff’s life by more than a dozen years. They also welcomed me into their household to work with the Maestro and treated me as one of their family.  I am forever grateful to the Azars.   (Stay tuned for more Rubinoff blogs)

commemorative concert to be given in Circleville, Ohio

Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin” After 30 Years


Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin”

Unearthing a Lost Concert of “Rubinoff and His Violin”After 30 Years. The year 1984 is not so far past; but the man playing the Stradivarius violin, David Rubinoff, was born in 1897. How I came to be his arranger and accompanist is quite a story.

In begins in 1911  when Victor Herbert, famed conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony and writer of operettas, was on a Sabbatical and touring Europe. It was at the Warsaw Conservatory of Music that Herbert heard a young Rubinoff playing his composition: Dance of the Russian Peasant. Without hesitation Herbert said: “Son, you belong to America.” And so, Victor Herbert brought him and his entire family back to the United States. Rubinoff  lived with Herbert who then placed him in the center of American cultural life. He was introduced to such notables as John Phillip Sousa,  the great tenor, Caruso, and others at the Sunday brunches held in his home.  I have had the honor of working with the Maestro Rubinoff since 1970.


To transition to this concert given at Scott’s Hotel in Deposit, New York; my wife, Sharon Lesley, and I have had quite a history concert touring together. We have been at Scotts during the summer months since 1983. I asked Ray Scott if I could invite Rubinoff and his wife to the hotel, and he jumped at the chance. Some 30 years later the Scotts have just now found the recording of our concert. Now you can hear, through youtube, why Victor Herbert insisted that Rubinoff belonged to America. At an actual performance at age 86 he will play the Dance of the Russian Peasant  and also with me, a beautiful approximately 45 minute concert of some of our arrangements. If you feel about the music as I do, you will believe you are witnessing a miracle.Continue reading

Film featurette called 50 words by Kathryn Parks

Kathryn’s Cabaret


Kathryn’s Cabaret: Although in France “cabaret” at one time was referred to as any business that sold liquor; as a theatrical venue, the culture began in 1881 with the opening of Le Chat Noir, the “Black Cat”, in the Monmartre district of Paris. Among its patrons were Debussy, Satie and Maupassant. Performers got to test new material and audiences could enjoy the goings on for the price of a few drinks in win-win-win situation.


In keeping with this exciting tradition, stage star Kathryn Parks, who has been cast in leading rolls across the Sarasota-Manatee-Venice area,  with guest relatives- mother Sharon Lesley and father David Ohrenstein – some 135 years later will bring back the original spirit and intent of Le Chat Noir to the cabaret stage at the Venice Theatre. Kathryn’s Cabaret -As part of the 2015 Summer Cabaret Festival, we’ll be appearing Saturday, July 11 and Thursday, July 16 at 8pm.


After keeping a diary for over 20 years, Kathryn will be sharing excerpts and singing songs. She’ll reveal stories of growing up in a very entertaining household while singing the classic songs of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Gershwin, Sondheim, and more.

Tickets are only $15 and can be purchased here:  //tix5.centerstageticketing.com/sites/venicetheatre/showdates.php?s_id=1174  The Venice Theatre is located at 140 W. Tampa Ave., Venice, Fl. 34285. The box office is 941-488-1115.


Here is a video with clips of Kathryn’s performances. We hope to see you there!

Elizabeth of Russia


Elizabeth of Russia, it all goes back to a book that seemingly popped off a shelf decades ago as wife- Sharon walked through Brant’s Used Book Store in Sarasota, Florida.  She felt a special destiny in that moment. The book was about Elizabeth of Russia, the daughter of Peter the Great. However, although she wrote her book after some initial research, the idea sat dormant in her mind.  Some twenty plus years later, Sharon then met with her husband David, a composer, began collaborating on the project, and Elizabeth of Russia was born.Continue reading