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Reviews 2018/19

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2017/18 Concert Season

The PLANETS – April 23, 2019

Refined!  Did not disappoint!

A grand finale concert brings with it an expectation of “that little something extra,” which can’t easily be described.  Tuesday’s concert of Holst’s The Planets, by the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, was special in that sense.  The way I would attempt to illustrate this indescribable “something extra”, comes actually from the audience.  This diverse combination of students, families, out-of-town guests, first-timers, and seasoned classical enthusiasts had their entire attention on what the stage was producing.  Not just listening, but immersed in each moment.  When you have around 500 people in one room, and you can audibly experience silence when the music uses it, or the whisper of the faintest pianissimo or pianisissimo, that’s extraordinary.  This music held your attention that way, suspending it in space.

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The Planets symphony, is often presented in separated parts, but here, was presented in its entirety.  Along with keeping this concert true in context to how Holst intended it to be performed, care was taken in many aspects of its interpretation.  The responsibility is a huge undertaking.  Being an early 20th century composition, we have more insight into this seven-movement suite, than a manuscript from the 1700’s, but it’s still a mind-boggling challenge.  Requiring an astounding number of musicians, and unfamiliar instruments added to the demanding nature of this symphony.

As an over-view, you would think that The Planets would be presented in order from the sun, but that is not the case.  Holst was more concerned with musical balance and so he put the dynamics of the movements, as a whole, in the order that made sense for a performance.

The LSO, under the masterful direction of Dr. Richard Prior, interpreted this music beautifully.  From the public pre-concert comments, the anticipation of the musicians in performing this music was just as high as the anticipation of the patrons waiting to hear it.  With almost eighty musicians on stage, the compiled focus on the music was breathtaking.  The result, too, was well-deserving of their standing ovation.  Well done, LaGrange Symphony Orchestra. Bravo.

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Each year seems to bring an enhanced level to the LSO performances. This next season begins the Anniversary celebration of having completed 30 years of musical excellence in our community, and we are all looking forward to its announcement.  Expectations are high and inquiries about season tickets have already begun.  If you are not familiar with the process, season tickets are a pre-season offer of a guaranteed seat at every concert and at a great savings.  Season tickets are expected to go on sale in early summer and are only offered for a specified period of time.  After that, you must wait until the next season to take advantage of the season ticket offer.

Here is a slideshow of some of the beautiful people who attended.

Thank you for supporting the arts and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.


An Evening of MOZART – MARCH 19, 2019
A Much Loved – Classic Event

“I couldn’t miss this [concert], Mozart is my absolute favorite composer.”

The evening of Mozart began with two additional pieces added to the program for the annual “side-by-side.”  This is the time of year, when members of the Youth Orchestra (LSYO) are paired with professional musicians.  They physically sit beside them, play the same music, and react to the same cues from the conductor.  This has proven to be a very valuable learning experience for the students.  At this concert, we had the LSYO string sections. The full Youth Orchestra with strings, wind, brass, and percussion, will perform their spring concert Tuesday, March 26th, 7:00 PM at Callaway Auditorium.

Dr. Prior explained that beginning with Reed’s Suite Concertante was by special choice for the side-by-side, since the Reed pieces were great for warming up the strings.  He also took time to recognize and thank the LSYO director, Celeste Myall. Each year, the students’ preparedness is outstanding due to their hard work, guidance, and direction.  Celeste was also later presented with a bouquet of flowers as a gesture of great appreciation.

 

March 2019

LSYO director, Celeste Myall, watches her students on stage with the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

 

March 2019

LSYO and LSO musicians present a beautiful rendition of Elgar’s Enigma Variations – Nimrod.

The Nimrod variation of Elgar’s Enigma Variations is always an audience favorite, and it also seemed to be a favorite with the LSYO musicians. What a beautiful piece, and a beautiful sound the orchestra produced for all the selections. They gave a fine performance!  We have so many talented young musicians in our community, or is it our musical community encouraging such musicianship in our youth?  Either way, we have something special.

Continuing, after a slight stage rearrangement, the LSO now began the “Evening of Mozart” with the classic Overture to the Marriage of Figaro. An overture to an opera is played at the very beginning, before the curtain goes up, and is meant to set-the-stage (in music) for the acts that follow. Often, passages heard in the overture return later in the production.  This particular overture, however, is a standalone composition.  Its melodies aren’t found in the rest of the dramatic acts, but rather, they suggest the overall theme and feeling of the opera.  What a great way to begin the opera and our Mozart celebration!  This music is anticipatory, joyful, fast, and furious and the LSO performed it brilliantly.

Jessica Stinson

Jessica Stinson graciously accepts her well-deserved standing ovation.

Next was Mozart’s glorious, and sometimes playful, Violin Concerto No. 5 in A Major, featuring Jessica Stinson, LSO principal second violin as soloist. What great projection!  Every nuance in this music could be heard, from the tiniest flutter to perfect double and triple stops. This was Jessica’s debut solo performance, and the audience wants to hear more.  Played with richness, warmth and precise technique, she showed us why this is a great concerto.

After intermission came the beloved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It includes four great movements played by strings.  This is what I think of as classic Mozart, noble, structured, and balanced as it would be for a dance.  There is no substitute for hearing it live, though, especially with the LSO in our wonderful, acoustically-rich auditorium.  This was a joy to hear.

Last, but not least on this full program, was Symphony No. 25 in G minor, written when Mozart was merely 17 years old. Surprisingly, this was his first symphony in a minor key.  Dramatic, stormy, and with sudden changes in tempo, this symphony progresses through four movements.  Turning quiet and thoughtful, and then into a minuet movement, it returns with another expressive movement that includes some new syncopation.  Precise, as always, the LSO handled this challenge with grace and ease.

March 2019

The conclusion of the “Evening of Mozart” March 2019 concert.

If you missed this concert, you missed a gem.  There is one more concert in this season and it will be an awesome grand finale.  Mark your calendars for April 23rd when the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra will present The Planets, by Gustav Holst in its entirety.  Don’t miss this opportunity!

Here are a few more photos from this event.

 

 


A HOLIDAY CONCERT – DECEMBER 11, 2018

A Full and Happy House for LSO Holiday Concert 2018

HouseThe 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.

Christmas

Christmas

 

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!

Choir

Christmas Choir

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.

Premiere

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

Oct 2018

Board member Lauranne Buchanan, left and LSO president Kaye Minchew before the “Women in Music” Concert.

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.

Oct 2018

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.

Oct 2018

Yannie Tan at the conclusion of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in c minor Op 18

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.

Oct 2018

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.

Oct 2018

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.

Sept-2018Tuesday, 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.

AlexandraNext 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.

 

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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!

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