LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Concert Season
A HOLIDAY CONCERT – DECEMBER 11, 2018
A Full and Happy House for LSO Holiday Concert 2018
The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s holiday concert drew a full house on a very chilly winter night on Tuesday December 11th. Smiles were plentiful as Patrons came out of the cold into a warm and inviting lobby that was buzzing with chatter, greetings, hugs and laughter. Filled with long-time friends, new acquaintances, and loving families, this was truly a holiday gathering rich with kindness, affection and good will.
The concert hall was alive with holiday cheer as was the stage with musicians gathering. The LSO, under the direction of Dr. Richard Prior, delivered classics from Leroy Anderson and Pyotr IIyich Tchaikovsky in the first half of the concert with a heartwarming and happy touch. There is something special about Christmas music and the images they create in your mind’s eye. Sleigh Ride and A Christmas Festival are two pieces that really transport you to a holiday wonderland, especially when you hear them performed live. Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite evokes similar feelings and images. Smiles and nods of approval could be seen across the audience when each of the eight sections began. I’m sure there were visions of dancing, presents, mice, and nutcracker soldiers as the suite progressed.
Once intermission began, there was more activity as folks visited, chatted, and discussed the upcoming premiere. The excitement increased as the long procession of singers came in and filled the stage. The two choirs, singing with the LSO in this second half, were the Choral Society of West Georgia, under the direction of Bettie Biggs, and the Lafayette Christian School Chorus, under the direction of Darlene Shaw. The composer, Rob Kirby, a detective with the City of LaGrange, also sings with the Choral Society and was onstage for the performance. This unified choir was 68 strong!
Two compositions premiered, not just one. Glory to God in the Highest was first and Away in a Manger followed. Both were penned by Mr. Kirby. “Very beautiful,” were words used by conductor Richard Prior in introducing the pieces. Both songs praised God in a very radiant and gentle way. Kirby’s orchestration of the instruments with SATB voices was heavenly. The audience was captivated and exploded with applause at their conclusion.
Dr. Prior invited the composer and the two choral directors front and center to be recognized. In this photo with Rob Kirby in the center, Bettie Biggs is on the left, and Darlene Shaw is on the right next to Dr. Prior.
After that, it was time for the audience to join the choir in singing carols that were led by the Symphony. Dr. Prior donned a festive red scarf, and with a swish, the carols began. This is a holiday tradition that unifies the audience and the performers as a true community. For the final number, the Choir and Symphony performed a Randol Alan Bass arrangement of We Wish You a Merry Christmas. With joyful applause, the concert ended and the area around the stage was elbow-to-elbow with congratulations and merry wishes for the holidays.
Thank you for supporting the arts in LaGrange, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.
Merry Christmas everyone! May your home be filled with music and happiness in 2019!
Here are more images from this concert.
WOMEN IN MUSIC – OCTOBER 30, 2018
Historically Important Music
The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s artistic direction has brought about a wonderful concert full of historically important music that was totally new to most listeners and musicians alike. The October 30th concert entitled “Women in Music” uplifted three fantastically talented composers and put each one in the spotlight they so deserved. Fanny Mendelssohn, Lili Boulanger, and Florence Price works were featured. Although each composer has now passed on, their contribution to the musical world remains an important asset to be cherished. Through the efforts of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, new appreciation for these works has come about. Music director, Dr. Richard Prior, put together this challenging program with three beautiful pieces from influential composers that have been surprisingly under-valued. One piece specifically was chosen by Prior in recognition of the work that Troup County Racial Trustbuilding Initiative is doing here in our area. It was also announced that the $1,000 price tag to rent the orchestral sheet music was anonymously donated in honor of long-standing LSO violinist and emeritus board member Dr. George Henry. LSO president, Kaye Minchew, began the concert with this comment, “Symphony No. 3 in c minor by Florence Price is of historical significance. She is the FIRST African-American composer, male or female, to have a symphonic work performed by a major American symphony. The year was 1933 in Chicago. We believe tonight is the first time that any of Florence Price’s symphonies have been performed by a Georgia orchestra.”
The stage was filled with musicians surrounding a fabulous grand piano. Anticipation was high. The LSO promotions and pre-concert comments explained the meaningful art that we saw on the cover of the program and in a commemorative scarf. The significance of this concert was apparent. The musicians seemed appreciative of the opportunity to perform works that are not in the average symphonic repertoire. With these extra details, this concert was really a celebration.
First on the program was Fanny Mendelssohn-Hensel’s Overture in C (1832). Fanny is the older sister of the famed Felix Mendelssohn. In those days, a musical career was for men only. Even though Fanny had great talent and expertise in composition just like her brother, it was her brother who emerged as one of the world’s great composers. She is, however, the first female to have her work published, although many of her compositions were published under her brother’s name.
Overture in C begins as a delicate consciousness, with call and answer passages like morning birds, this was truly peaceful music. It was very melodic and pleasing, rising and falling effortlessly, with excellently smooth but grand swells and counter passages. The performance floated over the audience and was entirely lovely.
Next was Lili Boulanger’s D’un matin de pintemps (Of a Morning in Spring) This was written in the last year of her fragile life, exactly 100 years ago. Lili lived a short 24 years, but within that time she became the first female to win the Prix de Rome composition contest. The piece performed here was a poem in tone. Interpretations of spoken poems depend heavily on the intonation and inflection of the narrative reader. What a difficult task it must be to correctly portray a tone poem! In this case, the LSO musicians grasped the nuances with expertise. The music had beautiful flute passages, fluttering string phrases, and wonderful drama, especially at the end. It is not a very long piece, but surprisingly optimistic with structured whimsicality. We could hear the music teeming with the possibilities of an awakening springtime. What an accomplishment for someone in poor health! D’un matin de pintemps was the last orchestral work completed by Miss Boulanger.
Guest artist for the “Women in Music” concert, Yannie Tan, took the stage next. As the 2018 winner of the Young Artists Competition (YAC), she played Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor Op 18 – first movement. Her age is quite young at seventeen, but Yannie is a very talented, seasoned and mature pianist. With grace and reserve, she performed this virtuosic piano/orchestral work to the delight of the audience. Rachmaninoff was a pianist as well as a composer, so his compositions played to his own strengths requiring equal mastery of powerful chords and incredibly fast and complex passages. Miss Tan’s exquisite performance drew the audience in and earned her a standing ovation along with several flower bouquets.
After an intermission, it was time for Florence Price’s Symphony in c minor. With four movements, this piece touched many different points of view. Each one fresh and different with flowing themes and spirited ideas that kept the percussion section on their toes. Throughout the lovely meandering river of melodies, Florence’s versatility was apparent. She incorporated, urban inspirations, Southern spiritual, and African-inspired dance rhythms that were new to the symphonic world in 1940. Her intention was to portray African-American life both then, and earlier. This was an intriguing piece of music that kept the audience engaged to the very last note. How wonderful for this piece of history be given a voice.
Florence Beatrice Smith Price (1887–1953) composed over 300 works. In 2009, numerous manuscripts belonging to Price were discovered in an old abandoned house in Illinois. These manuscripts were very nearly lost forever.
The “Women in Music” concert, in LaGrange, Georgia celebrated the significant impact that women have had on the world of music. Historically, female contributions have often been over-looked, but that has changed through the years, thanks in-part to Florence Price, Lili Boulanger, and Fanny Mendelssohn, three composers to which we owe a debt of gratitude and who have captured the hearts of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra and its patrons.
Here is a slideshow of some more of the concert and pre-concert highlights.
THE BEGINNING – SEPTEMBER 25, 2018
LSO Sparkles in Season Opener
Dedicated to the memory of Dr. Walter Y. Murphy and Dr. Werner A. Linz.
Tuesday, September 25th, 2018 marked the opening performance of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2018-2019 season. This concert, titled The Beginning, was dedicated to the memory of two great men, who’s leadership and guidance has been vital to the existence of the LSO. Through the kind words from LSO president, Kaye Minchew, Dr. Walter Y. Murphy and Dr. Werner A. Linz were officially recognized, before the concert, for their tremendous contribution to the organization. Both men put great effort into the success of the Symphony since the very beginning. It was in their memory and with tremendous gratitude that the concert was dedicated. Both of the honoree’s wives were in the audience and were applauded for their significant role in the accomplishments of their late husbands.
It has been the custom for the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, to play a rousing rendition our National Anthem at the first concert of every season. Our very first concert was held January 14th, 1990 – a birthday, so to speak. While we are rising into our 30th year as an organization, the 30th anniversary date is in January 2020. This is a huge milestone and we are greatly looking forward to celebrating during our 2019-2020 season, when we will truly be 30 years old!
Just as in years past, The Star Spangled Banner got everyone warmed up for what was to come. This year began with Bernstein’s Overture to Candide. Celebrating the 100th birthday of the late, great Leonard Bernstein, who’s life spanned the years 1918 – 1990, the LSO brought his composition to life. From the operetta’s opening brass, through the ebb and flow of the playful optimistic rhythms this was performed with vivaciousness, just as a story would be told. The notable liveliness, and cheeky style came through. Bernstein would be pleased.
Next was Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C Major. Featured artist, Alexandra Shatalov Prior, who is the LSO oboe principal, played with control and wonderful musical expression. The Oboe Concerto is melodically lovely, and technically quite challenging with its long solid phrases. This performance was refined and delivered with exactness. Through three movements, the up-beat theme recurs while the orchestra showcases the oboe. Maestro Prior, and Alexandra have recently married, so the title of this concert, “The Beginning”, with Alexandra being featured artist, has taken on another deeper meaning.
After a short intermission, it was time for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in A Major, a great work that has become one of his most popular. Looking at the musicians, it also seemed like a very enjoyable piece to perform. The LSO’s definitive interpretation of this Beethoven piece was spot-on and did not disappoint. At times gentle with subtle nuances and others vigorous and expressive, but always precise and adding just the right amount of sparkle. With tip-toe passages that seem to get closer and stronger and lovely flute inserts, this was very much a wonderful Beethoven experience.
All three pieces were cheerful, bright, and fit together very well in this concert. The evening didn’t end at the close of the concert though. A full reception was held at the LaGrange/Troup Chamber of Commerce and was well attended. A presentation was made by LSO president Kaye Minchew to Gail Browne, who received the Werner A. Linz Director Emeritus Award. Congratulations Gail! In addition, a presentation was made to Catherine Linz, Marianne Murphy, and to Gail Browne by LSO Executive Director Raylene Carter and LSO President Kaye Minchew. Each lady was presented with the Symphony’s 2018/2019 specially-designed silken scarf. This item had not yet been announced, so it was a wonderful surprise. The scarf features the concert art for the upcoming October concert “Women in Music.” There are a limited number available for purchase through the LSO office.
Here are a few photos from the reception:
And a few photos of the beautiful people attending this season opener:
Thank you for supporting the arts in LaGrange, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra. October’s concert, Women in Music, will highlight compositions from Florence Price and Fanny Mendelssohn, along with a piano performance by the 2018 Young Artists Competition (YAC) winner, Yanni Tan!