Reviews 2016/17

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2016 /17 Concert Season

EARTH Concert, Balanced and Naturally Beautiful

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s 2016/17 season was topped off with a fantastic grand finale concert entitled EARTH, last Tuesday.  This concert created splendid musical landscapes.

The William Tell Overture by Gioachino Rossini, was first on the program, and is so much more than its famous ending theme.  It begins with a wonderful cello solo that captivated the audience.  This overture actually comes from an opera that takes place in Switzerland.  It sets several alpine scenes that were fun for the listeners to find.  Here is a photo of Roy Harran, who was acknowledged for his superb cello solo.

Roy Harran, cellist

Roy Harran

Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was next and Lorna Wood began the journey performing the solo part for Spring.  Naturally, each season is written in a different key.  Spring is written in E major.  Callie Hammond performed Summer  in G minor, Ela Tokarska performed Autumn in F major and Celeste Myall brought everything together with Winter written in F minor.  Published in 1725, this music is still extremely popular and is filled with impressive violin passages.  Rewarded with a standing ovation, these soloists along with the LSO gave a terrific performance.  Most concert goers know this music well and they were not disappointed.  Bravo!  At the conclusion of this piece, the soloists were each presented with beautiful bouquets graciously donated by Renasant Bank.  Here are a few photos.

Lorna Wood

Lorna Wood

Callie Hammond

Callie Hammond

Ela Tokarska

Ela Tokarska

Celeste Myall

Celeste Myall


After a short intermission, the LSO performed Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland.  This music was composed  as a ballet for Martha Graham, a notable choreographer in the 1940’s who commissioned it.  This music undeniably captures the American ideal and was, quite accurately, titled by Martha.  Beginning softly as a sunrise, Appalachian Spring progresses through a pioneer celebration both joyful and apprehensive. The most popular section “Simple Gifts” is a delicately strong melody which is followed with a prayerful sound of thanks.  This was stunningly beautiful and very thoughtful music.  It ended in the same fashion in which it began, softly, as a sunset.

Dr. Richard Prior

Dr. Richard Prior

This was a wonderful grand finale performance of an exceptional season, and was definitely a season to remember.

Dr. Prior spoke briefly on things to come next season, and although he didn’t give away any secrets, he was notably pleased and excited about the program in the works for the 2017/18 season.

Many thanks to our co-sponsors for this event: Holiday Inn Express & Suites, and the LaGrange High School Class of 1967.

Holiday Inn Express

Afterwards, at the Chamber of Commerce, a full-scale reception for all concert-goers and musicians filled the Chamber and spilled out into the courtyard’s warm evening air.  It was nice to mingle with the musicians and to get the chance to congratulate them on a job well done.  The entire evening was delightful. So many people mentioned their enthusiasm and anticipation for 2017/18 season tickets! Thank you for supporting the arts, and especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

March 21, 2017

LSO “WATER” Concert – Adventurous

Side-by-sideFlowing through Callaway auditorium Tuesday March 21st, 2017 was the fourth concert in the Elemental Forces series entitled WATER.  This concert was filled with fluid imagery and began with a sea of musicians onstage.  This was the annual side-by-side with the LaGrange Symphony Youth Orchestra and the stage was indeed full.  Dr. Prior began by recognizing Celeste Myall, director of the LSYO.  He commended her efforts and also the efforts of all of the wonderful teachers who have invested in these students.

The side-by-side piece was Hoddinott’s Investiture Dances, Op. 66 Allegro and Presto.  This piece is scored for a large orchestra along with some extra instruments, which allows students of several musical areas to participate.  The music was very grand and was actually commissioned for the announcement of England’s Prince Charles officially becoming the Prince of Wales.  Hoddinott was a prominent Welsh composer at that time.  The side-by-side with students and professionals was performed with care and precision and the audience was very appreciative.  Great job.


(click photo to enlarge)

Next was Mendelssohn’s Die Hebriden.  This piece sounded like an epic voyage, quite different from the first piece.  Beginning with soft misty tones the sound built into a full adventure.  It was lovely, dynamic and successfully depicted Mendelssohn’s memorable trip to Scotland.

Dr. EverettDr. Beth Everett was the guest artist for the next piece singing Elgar’s Sea Pictures.  Poetic and romantic, the LSO and Dr. Everett’s performance washed gently over the audience.

With five separate songs within this song cycle, the contralto part required a great deal of stamina.  Dr. Everett has a very controlled and powerful voice.  She was brilliant throughout the wide range of poetic moods.

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

(click photo to enlarge)

After a brief intermission, the LSO performed Mendelssohn’s Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture.  This is a beautiful piece drawing from two related poems depicting seafaring stillness and motion.  Clear and warm, this piece had two distinct feelings and the LSO sailed through it all with skill.

Capping off the evening was Britten’s Four Sea Interludes.  These were compiled from the Opera Peter Grimes, though the order is rearranged for orchestra performance. To say they were very emotional doesn’t do it justice.  The music, rather than being descriptive of the emotions, transferred different emotions to the listeners.  I was surprised and impressed at this.  Coming from an opera you would think a large dependence would be on the vocals.  The LSO had extreme attention to detail here with instruments responding to each other with both contrast and similarity. To me, this performance stands out.


Great.  Loved it.

If you enjoyed the concert, you can easily let the world know by visiting us on facebook and giving a quick review. You can also post your photos from the concert there.

On behalf of everyone at the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, we extend our sincere gratitude to Higgins Funeral Homes for sponsoring this March “WATER” concert.  Their enthusiasm and continued financial support has made this event possible.

Higgins Logo

Thanks are also extended to our wonderful Patrons for supporting the arts, especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

December 13, 2016

LSO “LIGHT” Concert – Brilliant, Diverse, and Joyful

“My Favorite Concert yet”  “Loved it!”  “Terrific”

It was a dark and rainy night in LaGrange, Georgia December 13th for the LSO LIGHT concert, but no one’s spirit was dampened.  In fact, the mood was up-beat, positive and optimistic, with wonderful holiday wishes for all.

Here are a few holiday wishes to brighten your day!:

Inspirational and uplifting, this concert was the perfect thing to attend to be filled with holiday spirit, wonder and happiness.  Comprised of varying styles, the diverseness of this concert truly had something for everyone.

SoloistsThe evening’s entertainment began building upon the mood of the holiday with Corelli’s Christmas Concerto. This well done, six movement, piece featured the strings and several soloist sections.  Written with a “Christmas Eve” mood, it had a pastoral feeling of awe, attained imaginatively, by shepherds visiting a traditional Nativity scene.  The lullaby meter represented the rocking of the Christ Child by his mother, a very fitting and glowing beginning for this concert of LIGHT.

Capturing the feeling of a more modern holiday with buoyant energy were Anderson’s two pieces – Bugler’s Holiday and Sleigh Ride.  In the Bugler’s Holiday, the trumpet was, of course, highlighted and was delightful.  It joyfully announced the holiday and Sleigh Ride captured the light-hearted and quick pace of our wintry journey through the season.

Twas’ the Night Before Christmas, a beloved poem, provided the basis for the next piece, which was a very descriptive musical arrangement combined with narrative imagery.  Expressively reading the text was Dr. Kevin Shirley, professor at LaGrange College.  He verbally described the vision while the LSO, very successfully, colored the scenes musically.  The combination was very effective and the experience easily imagined.

The next selection countered Santa with Brubaker’s arrangement of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  This much-loved Dr. Seuss story is both sassy and optimistic.  Filling the auditorium with the Grinch’s “enlightenment”, the LSO did a wonderful job with yet another style of music.

Also a definite crowd pleaser, the performance of The Polar Express Suite was expansive and substantial.  Rather breath-taking, the inspirational and wide-awake sparkle of this piece felt epic. The train, with its illuminating light could be seen full of adventure and discovery. There was also an undeniable feeling that all will be well if you just “believe”.  The LSO performed this brilliantly.  Well done.

LSO and choir

Increasing the mood yet again, it was time for the LSO to corroborate with the much-anticipated all-male combined choir for Randol Allen Bass’s Gloria.  Comprised of The Sons of Lafayette, directed by Dr. Beth Everett, and the Troup H.S. Men’s Ensemble, directed by Kathy Kirby, this unified group sounded every bit as great as they looked.  Shown in this photo, is the full stage as they were being introduced by Dr. Prior. You may click the photo to view a larger version.

This work was conducted by Dr. Beth Everett, and beautifully wished peace on earth to all of good will and announced the Light of the World.  From the first “Gloria!” the audience was captured. This was a remarkably fitting culmination to this concert.

Richard PriorTo top everything off, the LSO, the combined choir, and the audience all shared some traditional holiday carols.  It was a very full, enjoyable, and uplifting evening.   The audience loved it!

If you enjoyed the concert, you can easily let the world know by visiting us on facebook and giving a quick review. You can also post your photos from the concert there.

On behalf of everyone at the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, we extend our sincere gratitude to Commercial Bank & Trust for sponsoring this holiday “LIGHT” concert.  Their enthusiasm and continued financial support has made this event possible.

Thanks are also extended to our wonderful Patrons for supporting the arts, especially the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.   Merry Christmas and best wishes for a bright and Happy New Year!  You are the “LIGHT” of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.

CB&T Logo


November, 1, 2016

A Hot November Night for LSO FIRE Concert!

Presented with fond memories, and in celebration of the life of Bob Culbreth, who has been a longtime member of the orchestra family. (Read more here.)

Beginning with 80 degree weather, the warm evening got even hotter inside Callaway Auditorium November 1st, 2016 for the LSO FIRE concert. This was the second performance in the 2016/17 series ELEMENTAL FORCES.

Greeted by none other than Shakespeare himself, many enjoyed the photo opportunity with the famous playwright who was the inspiration for works in this concert. Actually, the noted challenge for this Shakespearean-inspired program was limiting the choices to a single concert.

Noticing the full stage of musicians, especially the broad range of percussion instruments, the anticipation was already building before the first note was played. First on the program was Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March, No. 4. This was not the “graduation theme”, but was composed in the same family of marches published together as opus 39 who’s title is from a line in Shakespeare’s play, Othello.  This No. 4 march is not militaristic, but very grand and stately.  Commanding this piece and performing with “largeness”, the LSO did a wonderful job of giving this piece the royal pageantry it deserved.

Romeo and Juliet

Caleb Brown (Romeo) and Leigh Anne Hamlin (Juliet)

To introduce the next piece, Leigh Anne Hamlin (Juliet) and Caleb Brown (Romeo) with narration by Kim Barber Knoll, performed the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Beautifully costumed and eloquently spoken, we saw their young love begin.

Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Overture – Fantasy begins solemnly and doesn’t follow the play’s events in the order that they occur. Fantasy portrays the contrasting moods of the characters.  Love and violence were both present and easily recognized.  Recurring danger, an underlying heartbeat and soaring love theme reverberated through the auditorium. It was truly lovely to experience and must be as wonderful to perform as it was to witness because of a noticeable connection between the musicians and the music.

West Side Story

Mariah Bowen (Maria) and Will Wooten (Tony)

Moving into the 1950s, the FIRE concert next introduced its final piece with a dramatic scene from West Side Story. Narrated by Kim Barber Knoll and played by Mariah Bowen (Maria) and Will Wooten (Tony) the LaGrange Theater Arts department presented Maria and Tony pledging their love. Again, costumed perfectly and with great emotional expression, they set the scene for Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances.

This finale piece takes nine selections from the full stage production. Opening with energy and syncopation, Symphonic Dances was immensely entertaining.  The complexity of the music and rhythms was quickly apparent and was awesome to watch the preciseness and intensity with which the LSO performed its every turn.  The interplay between themes and continually refreshed perspective was appreciable and very appealing.  The audience rewarded Dr. Prior, the musicians, and actors with a warm and long standing ovation.  A stunningly successful performance, the evening was very musically satisfying.

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra – FIRE Concert

September 27, 2016

AIR – LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

“perfectly beautiful”

A considerable audience gathered for the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra 2016/17 Season opening concert entitled “AIR”. The first in the series entitled “Elemental Forces,” this performance was as beautiful as the night air on September 27th.  High expectations were met.  This concert was a definite crowd pleaser.

Jumping right into the season, a vibrant rendition of our National Anthem got everyone to their feet. From there Dr. Prior gave us a brief insight into the first piece, Walton’s Spitfire Prelude and Fugue, and suggested things for which to listen.  Scored for the 1940’s film “The First of the Few” (known in the U.S. as “Spitfire”) this music was the backdrop for a story about English fighter planes.  This wonderful piece musically described the scenes of the movie with brilliance.  Small nuances throughout were very effective and the performance notably fluent in dynamics.  The Prelude had beautiful delicate moments and at one point a suspension in the music floated as if a pilot’s silk scarf in slow motion.


LSO musicians acknowledging their standing ovation. (composite photo)

The highlight event of the evening for which everyone had been waiting was now at hand, with the world premiere of Concerto for Flute and Orchestra.  We were honored to be the first audience in the world to hear this music performed.  Dedicated to his father, Dr. Prior’s work included three movements.  The piece was very lyrical with bass undertones that were significantly appealing.  In fact, each instrument in the orchestra although beautifully blended, was exposed as an integral element.

Richard Prior and Jonathan Keeble

Richard Prior and Jonathan Keeble

The guest artist and flute soloist, Jonathan Keeble performed expertly. He played with precise clarity, fullness and delicate strength.  With terrific talent and stage presence, Jonathan was the perfect choice for this.  From the program notes, The Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, was written with “friends and people pictured within”.  How fitting, that Jonathan, a long-time friend and colleague of Dr. Prior, was able to appear and perform this work.  Everyone on stage was rewarded with a well-deserved standing ovation.

After an intermission, we were treated to Elgars: Enigma Variations with fourteen movements. Included was the well-known and admired “Nimrod”, which is a favorite for many.  A very beautiful work, the infinite dynamic levels executed by the musicians brought out much in this piece.  Well done.

“really looking forward to the next concert”

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