Superb concert – spotlight on musical influence
The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra (LSO) performed their Symphonic Legacy concert in the sanctuary of the First United Methodist Church of LaGrange (FUMC) on March 15th, 2022. The atmosphere was friendly, cheerful, and unhurried. Masks were no longer mandatory so smiles were prominent and a welcome sight.
The concert began with a warm greeting from The Reverend Ben Wills of First United Methodist Church of LaGrange, standing in for Dr. John Beyers who was away. This was followed by comments from LSO president, Jeff Higgins. Both men mentioned this was the final concert at FUMC before the LSO returns to their home at Callaway Auditorium. (More on that below) This Music in the Sanctuary series, which stretched from 2021 into 2022, has been a terrific success and both entities are grateful for the opportunity to work together.
Before beginning the Symphonic Legacy concert, Music Director/Conductor Richard Prior gave some pertinent commentary about the significance of Haydn, Mozart and Mendelssohn. These three men have had a tremendous impact on the musical world ever since they were alive, and are still having an effect on the writings of today’s compositions. Together, they provide a rich legacy of musical influence.
While Mendelssohn and Mozart’s lives were relatively short (38 and 35 respectively), Haydn lived to age 77. Whether short or long-lived, their contributions are individually, let alone collectively astounding. Maestro Prior spoke more about each composer before the performance of their piece. This discussion added even more value to the concert experience.
The first piece was Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture (written after a visit to Scotland’s famous Fingal’s Cave.) It is a beautiful composition reflecting how much a visit to this area greatly moved Mendelssohn. He had immediately written a postcard to his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn, from Scotland and sketched down the prominent theme that he intended to use. This prominent opening theme, in its low register, suggests the presence of something majestic and imposing.
The LSO was very adept at letting the dramatic impact flow through the music. The ebb and flow of this piece is not subtle, but very striking. Within it, the audible layering and delicate nuances were substantial. This performance was inspired.
Next came Mozart’s Symphony No 1 in E-flat Major. This was written when he was eight years old, however, Mozart was already known, even at that young age, as an extraordinary musician. It’s a good thing that he didn’t waste any time in his early years, since Mozart only lived to age 35. Imagine what he could have created had he lived as long as Haydn!
This piece is about ten minutes in length and has three sections in a quick-slow-quick format. Comparatively, it is not long, but it is crafted with care and attention is given to each instrument section. How wonderful to hear Mozart’s very first symphony, a treat that is not often offered in live concerts! It sounded happy and warm. A great pairing, in this Symphonic Legacy, concert with the next portion of the concert.
Haydn, or as we learned he is referred to as “Papa Haydn”, penned the final piece in this concert, which was Symphony No. 104 in D Major. It was also Haydn’s last symphony that he ever wrote. Although it is one of twelve London symphonies (written for English audiences), it is actually known as “the London Symphony.” Maestro Prior gave quite a bit of information regarding this composer, along with a corny joke, thrown in for good measure.
Haydn’s London Symphony was delightful, full and vibrant. Layered with many harmonic explorations, it was obvious that it was written by a well-seasoned composer. The delivery was brilliantly planned and performed with love and care. This was the final piece of the evening, Haydn’s very last symphony, and the LSO’s farewell concert at the FUMC for the 2021-22 season’s Music in the Sanctuary series.
Throughout this Symphonic Legacy concert, there was a sense of connection between audience and musician. Technically, this was a high-ranking performance and was warmly combined with personal insight, and an easy-going atmosphere. Loved it.
One more concert April 26th, 2022
One more concert will be performed in this 2021-2022 season! It is scheduled for April 26th, 2022 at Callaway Auditorium (7:30 PM), which is located on the campus of LaGrange College. Callaway Auditorium is the official home of the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra. No concerts have been performed there since the pandemic began. This homecoming will accentuate the feelings associated with returning home after an extended period. The LSO will perform the program that was slated to be played April of 2020 entitled “Sounds of HOME”. This will be a full concert with full-sized orchestra, and will be good to be welcomed home once again in Callaway Auditorium.
Thank you for supporting the arts in LaGrange and especially for supporting the LaGrange Symphony Orchestra.