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INSPIRE – March 19, 2024

Concert Review LSO INSPIRE 3-2024

A stunning performance! Heartwarming. Wonderful.

As the large audience arrived, new slides were projected on the screen.  These not only thanked sponsors, but also recapped December’s event with new photos.

Here are a few photos showing the happiness and beautiful smiles of audience members on this night as they chatted with friends and made new acquaintances.

The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra (LSO) INSPIRE concert was about to begin!

LSO president Janet Johnson opened the concert with a warm welcome. She also gave special recognition to the LSO sponsors and many notable audience members. Included in these special guests were members of Racial Trustbuilding. [] The mission of Racial Trust Building, Inc., is to bridge the racial divide in Troup County through trust-building, research, community collaboration, and action in order to remove barriers that prevent full access to opportunities for all. The Executive Director of Troup County Racial Trustbuilding, Chalton Askew, gave preliminary remarks along with Maestro Richard Prior before William Dawson’s symphony later in the program.

Members of Troup County Racial Trustbuilding.
Ashlyn Endicott
Ashlyn Endicott


The concert opened with the annual Side-by-Side event which immerses the LaGrange Symphony Youth Orchestra (LSYO) musicians into the professional orchestra of the LSO for a few pieces. This important learning experience helps to shape our future musicians. It gives them professional mentorship and support while being held to a high standard. In looking at the stage, you could not easily distinguish who were the LSYO members! The concertmaster for this section was the LSYO concertmaster, Ashlyn Endicott.

This year, two selections were performed by the combined orchestras. Both were conducted by Michael Giel, director of the LSYO.

The first piece was Scott Joplin’s Country Club Rag. This ever-popular composer wrote it for ragtime piano with a driving rhythm and catchy melody. The exact year that Joplin wrote Country Club Rag is vague, but the piece was first published in 1896. It is one of his earlier works.

The performance was classically “Joplin”, being lively and relaxed at the same time. The LSYO and LSO did a great job demonstrating the ragtime feeling. If you understand the syncopation, there’s a certain happiness for both the listener and the performer that translates through the music. The LSYO and the LSO most certainly got it right!

The second combined piece was The Code by Alan Lee Silva with arrangement by William Zinn.  This piece is wonderfully mysterious and dramatic with a secret agent vibe. It was very different from the first piece, but again, the syncopation required to pull it off was executed with precision. The result was a great performance for which the audience rewarded them. Bravo to the young musicians who nailed this opportunity. Bravo, also to the professional musicians who took time to be mentor figures in this scenario. No one realizes how much it impacts a young musician to have this chance to perform as a member of a professional group.

Side-by-Side 2024

Guest Artist, Ruxi Wang

After a stage change, the LSO continued the program with Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor featuring Ruxi Wang. Miss Wang is the Dorothy Allen Turner first-place champion of the Young Artists Competition for Piano held in February of this year. This concerto is the piece she used to capture the title. [You can read more about pianist Ruxi Wang in this blog post.]

Her talent was immediately illustrated as the first movement opens at an invigorating pace with the piano jumping in almost immediately. The LSO is excellent at painting a mood with sound. Their performance was grand and elegant. They allowed the piano to be showcased while continually generating the supportive framework.

Ruxi is a great performer to watch. Her enthusiasm and feeling for the music flowed throughout all three movements. She deservingly received a standing ovation. Maestro Prior commented from the stage that Miss Wang was a true professional. He went on to let the audience know that even though she had not missed a note, the piano’s pedal assembly had malfunctioned mid performance. The audience again thundered with applause. Bravo!

Ruxi Wang
Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto in G minor with LSO and Ruxi Wang
LaGrange Symphony Orchestra
Chalton Askew, left, Executive Director of Troup County Racial Trustbuilding and Richard Prior, right, Music Director and Conductor of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra

William Dawson’s Symphony

After intermission and another stage change, Chalton Askew, Executive Director of Racial Trustbuilding and Richard Prior, LSO Music Director and Conductor introduced the next piece. They announced William Dawson’s brilliant 1932 Negro Folk Symphony. In these preliminary remarks, Mr. Askew and Maestro Prior gave some of the history behind this work, some musical phrases to recognize within the piece, and how it is happily being rediscovered.

[If you would like to read a bit more history about William Dawson, check out this LSO blog post.]

Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony was stunning from the opening tones. It begins with a four-note sequence from a single horn and builds into a sea of beautiful poetic phrases returning to that same sequence every so often. The work consists of three movements:
I. The Bond of Africa
II. Hope in the Night, and
III. O Le’ Me Shine, Shine Like a Morning Star!

The audience was spellbound. The power behind the music, its interpretation, and its delivery by the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra was captivating. If you missed this concert, then you missed a fantastic opportunity to witness the rediscovery of a great work of art. Although William Dawson composed only one symphony, it is truly excellent.

Here is a video snippet from this INSPIRE concert. William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, LaGrange Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Maestro, Richard Prior:

LaGrange Symphony Orchestra 3-19-2024
The conclusion of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra's INSPIRE concert.

April’s Grand Finale Concert

There is something extraordinary in a live performance that is rather inexplicable. It could be physically feeling the percussion throughout the auditorium or the vibrations from the strings, or perhaps the collective focused energy by over 60 musicians concentrated on one moment in time. It’s a very honored position to know that all this attention to detail is done explicitly for you, the individual audience member.

You don’t know what you’re missing until you experience it. So, plan to attend April’s concert. It is coming up on Saturday, April 27th at 7:30 PM in Callaway Auditorium, LaGrange, GA.

The title of the concert is ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE. It is the grand season finale. The LSO joins forces with artistic partners, the Choral Society of West Georgia, in a program celebrating music from Broadway. Instrumental selections and wonderful choruses from iconic shows in the great American tradition that has defined generations!   [Tickets for “ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE are available CLICK HERE.]


2023/2024 LaGrange Symphony Orchestra Sponsors

Emerald and Diamond Levels

Callaway Foundation
CFCV-West Point Fund Logo
LaGrange College
LaGrange Symphony Guild
Edward Jones

LaGrange Financial Advisors


Tournesol Logo
Wingate Logo

Gold and Silver Levels

Pure Life
Long & Long
Sons of Lafayette

Heating and Air

at LaFayette Square





Dental Service




© LaGrange Symphony Orchestra 2023/2024 | All rights reserved | 706.882.0662 | Richard Prior, Music Director & Conductor

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