LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2019/20 Concert Season
Sounds of Peace – December 10, 2019
A Patron commented this concert as being, “The very best Christmas concert yet!!” Others wholeheartedly agree with them.
Friends and family gathered for the LSO holiday concert, Sounds of Peace, with smiles, hugs, and happy chatter. The lobby had a special delight as “The Soundpost,” a group formed by members of the LSYO, under the direction of Celeste Myall, serenaded the Patrons with pre-concert holiday classics. They warmed hearts as everyone came in from the cold. This was an extra-touch that greatly added to the holiday atmosphere. The excitement of a sold-out house paired with the wonderful program line-up was clear throughout the auditorium. The buzz of happy conversation gave way to anticipatory quiet within an instant, as the concert was about to start.
A little different in this concert, the musicians were positioned forward on the stage making room for the choir risers behind them for later in the program. Stage setup is an art to give the audience the best possible experience and here they had to balance a large choir, symphony, a piano, and six soloists!
Beginning with two selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite No. 1, the holiday stage was indeed set with Miniature Overture and March. The brass and woodwind were notably wonderful in both pieces, but especially in the Tchaikovsky March.
Leroy Anderson’s cheerful Sleigh Ride was next. Being one of the world’s most popular holiday compositions, this piece was surprisingly written during a heatwave. One can only believe that a heatwave would require even greater holiday imagery. The steady rhythm of sleigh bells painted a wonderful wintry picture. Complete with whipcracks and horse whinny the scene was joyful and carefree.
Changing the mood for the next piece, the pastoral Fantasia on Greensleeves by Ralph Vaughan Williams was introspective and, of course, very English. Inspired by the traditional ‘Greensleeves’, Fantasia on Greensleeves was originally part of the opera Sir John in Love. Beginning with flute and harp together it gave a calm sense of peace and led into the theme’s melody which flowed effortlessly and loftily through the strings.
Sandwiched by another of Leroy Anderson’s pieces, next came A Christmas Festival. Taking several of the best-known Christmas themes, Anderson melded them into an overture. Cheerful and bright, he captured the full gamut of the holiday in a single seamless piece, which the musicians performed brilliantly.
After a very brief pause while the impressive choir came onstage, the audience was included in the traditional sing-along. Then they were given a premier performance of the newly orchestrated version of Nativity Carol by Prior. Originally penned in 2002, Dr. Prior re-orchestrated it for a larger symphony, which we were given the honor of hearing first. If you kept a copy of the program, you will find the words to this carol on page 3, upon which you may want to reflect. They include lovely words of calm, safety, and of course, darkness turned into light by a tender babe. The Choral Society of West Georgia brought these words to life, and the LSO highlighted them with the beautiful composition. It was inspiring and delightful and was rewarded with hearty applause from the audience.
Lastly, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy finished the evening with majesty and power. Andrew Harry performed the impressive concerto on piano with the LSO. Together, with soloists Andrea Mueller, Brenda Frye, Toni Anderson, Ed Biggs, Johnathan Pilkington, James Camp, the Choral Society of West Georgia and the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra nailed this larger-than-life piece and gave the audience a powerhouse performance. It was wonderful. The entire concert was a success and the audience appreciated it with a standing ovation. The evening definitely ended on a high note.
Here are a few more photos from the evening:
May your holiday be uplifting and colored with the sounds of Peace, Love, and Harmony. Thank you for supporting the arts, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.
Sounds of DANCE – October 29, 2019
The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 30th Anniversary celebration continued through this concert, as president Kaye Lanning Minchew paid tribute to the musicians that played in the very first LSO concert, 30 years ago. Several members of that original orchestra were in attendance and were individually recognized.
Sam Lee, who was on that first roster, was additionally thanked for his work throughout these 30 years and is now one of the youth program instructors. His students, as well as all the LSYO students, will be performing their full LSYO Fall Concert on November 12, 2019. You will be amazed at the level these young musicians have achieved in their music studies.
The Sounds of Dance evening began slowly and quietly, with a single snare drum rhythm. It was Ravel’s Bolero, which is a set of eighteen interpretations of one original theme. Usually a snare drum is associated with a march, however Ravel used the snare drum here as the foundation for a ballet in 1928 Paris. Bolero showcased various instruments and combinations of instruments. Utilizing numerous LSO soloists, the music continually and purposefully built presence throughout. The snare drum moved steadily with increasing volume and number of instruments involved in the theme. It all culminated at the very end, rather abruptly, but effectively. The audience loved it.
In contrast, the next piece centered the instrumentation on the single voice of the oboe. Blending beautifully, the LSO kept the focus on the soloist. Piazzolla’s Oblivion, an Argentine tango, is sultry and quietly dramatic. The depth and complex mix of emotions in this piece came through with the oboe. Piazzolla performed this piece himself as soloist on the accordion-like bandeon. He also arranged it for other instrumentation seeing its vast potential. An Argentine tango is danced differently than what you are probably used to seeing. It has no basic step but is danced entirely with improvisation and usually in close embrace. Oblivion is one of Piazzola’s most frequently performed tangos, and equally well-loved by listeners and dancers alike.
Next was Danzon No. 2 from the Mexican composer, Marquez. This was wonderfully performed, beginning with clarinet as smooth as tempered chocolate underlined with a simple Latin rhythm, again relying heavily on percussion. The music modulates and becomes more energetic. Progressing through numerous tempo and flavor changes, its saucy brilliance was engaging, with more solos! The audience exploded with approval, this piece was dynamic, beautifully executed, and noticeably fun to perform.
After intermission the LSO moved through Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances nos. 5-8. Originally written as a request for ‘chamber music of folk flavor’, Dvorak orchestrated them after seeing how popular they were. Performing the last four of a set of eight dances, these beautiful dances are gently expressive.
In high contrast, next came Copland’s Four Dance Episodes from Rodeo, a Western ballet, evoking high-spirited cowboys and cowgirls, rollicking fun, and high adventure. Dancing through four ideas, the evening ended with the familiar and energetic Hoe-Down.
This concert may have opened in a quiet and meandering fashion, but it ended at full gallop! This was a great concert, and an extensive sampling of moods through dance music. Here are some photos of pre-concert preparations backstage, along with a few quick Patron snapshots before the lights dimmed.
The next LSO concert, Sounds of Peace, is an uplifting holiday concert on December 10th at 7:30 p.m. at Callaway Auditorium in LaGrange, GA and will delight and dazzle. It includes a thrilling collaboration between the LSO, the Choral Society of West Georgia and pianist, Andrew Harry in the presentation of Beethoven’s fantastic Choral Fantasy! It is a magnificent composition that joyfully showcases the orchestra, piano and chorus. Don’t miss this opportunity to experience such a powerful work and be filled with the holiday spirit.
Thank you for supporting the arts in LaGrange, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.
Sounds of DRAMA – September 24, 2019
Thirty years and counting! The LSO 2019/20 season opened to a full house September 24, 2019, with the traditional, vibrant rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. The Sounds of Drama concert was a salute to LaGrange College and their close relationship to the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra. LSO Executive Director, Raylene Carter, explained in her concert comments that the origin of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra is attributed to three men: Dr. Harry Kruger, conductor emeritus of the Columbus Symphony, Dr. David Naglee, LaGrange College professor, and Dr. Walter Y. Murphy, then President of LaGrange College. She went on to describe the immeasurable support that the College has given the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra during these past thirty years. This support continues today with Dr. Dan McAlexander, current LaGrange College president. The LSO gratefully acknowledges and appreciates LaGrange College. We look forward to the next 30 years.
The first half of this concert showcased themes from several recent dramatic films: Star Wars (Williams), E.T.(Williams), Star Trek (Goldsmith), and Pirates of the Caribbean (Badelt). Film scores are obviously written for very specific dramatization. The music behind the action is extremely important in its persuasive impact on the audience. Each of these themes represented are synonymous with their movie counterparts. Some themes rise to their own fame beyond the context of the drama, and are adapted, or re-worked, to be stand-alone pieces, suitable for concert performance. The selections in this program are great examples with their driving percussion, majestic brass-section power, epic swells and influential, recurring melodies. They are widely popular and easily recognizable. Hearing and feeling this music performed live by a quality orchestra like the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra is something that cannot be duplicated in a recording. LSO patrons appreciate the authenticity of hearing great music in this context.
The evening continued with Gabriel’s Oboe (Morricone), the emotionally rich main theme from the 1986 film The Mission. The theme is unique in this movie because the main character plays this song on the oboe as part of the story line. Elisa Lyle, LSO Principal flute performed the solo beautifully. Elisa is a founding musician with the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra and is the only member to have continually served with the Orchestra to this date. The audience loved her performance and enthusiastically showed their appreciation. (See photo below)
The two marches in the program were from very different films. Dambusters March (Coates), a wonderfully patriotic piece, is from a film depicting the historic event in May 1943 during World War II in which bomber pilots deliver bouncing bombs to destroy German dams. The second march comes from an early sci-fi movie, Things to Come (Bliss). This piece begins in full suspense mode, dark and questioning. It moves through formidable drama, and finally becomes triumphant. Both pieces are expertly composed with wonderful layers that can only be achieved through great orchestration in the writing and in the interpretation and delivery on stage. Wonderful blending through each section of the orchestra gave the audience a terrific rendition of each.
The second half of the program included slightly different works. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas was composed as a symphonic poem. Its drama was entirely created with music without the support of actors or visual imagery. It was so highly regarded, that Disney later used it, in their animated concert film Fantasia. The quality of the piece, no matter how great the orchestration, is directly dependent upon on the delivery. The LSO delivered with amazing cohesion. An impressive piece with truly gorgeous and crisp playing. This was a spellbinding performance.
The finale for the evening was the Firebird Suite, which was composed by Igor Stravinsky, for ballet in 1910. This ballet blended two Russian legends, the stories of the Firebird and Kashchei the Immortal. The ballet was a great success for the 27-year-old composer. This was his largest composition at that time in his career. Stravinsky re-orchestrated the piece in 1919 for smaller orchestras, exactly 100 years ago. A centenary celebrated with this performance. (photos below, soloists are individually recognized)
(below, final standing ovation)
We often comment on the dynamic abilities of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, always tonally on-point and blended carefully. The textures demonstrated in this concert were impressive. The voices both small and grandiose, often within the same piece, were smooth and sculpted. Great performance. We are looking forward to the next concert, Sounds of Dance, on October 29th.
Here is a slideshow of some of the beautiful people who attended this concert and the post-concert reception.
Thank you for supporting the arts in LaGrange, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.