Salisbury Symphony is chasing light

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 28, 2009

By Sarah Hall
“Light” doesn’t describe the style of music being performed by the Salisbury Symphony Oct. 24. It isn’t pops. Instead, the symphony will tackle a challenging program of illustrative pieces, each embodying the concept of light through their forms and instrumental combinations.
The performance takes place at 7:30 p.m. this Saturday in Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College, with Music Director David Hagy conducting.
The concert will open with “Helios” Overture by Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931).
In Greek mythology, Helios is the sun god of ancient Greek mythology, who rode in his chariot from east to west each day. Neilsen manages to capture the rising and setting if the sun through vivid musical tone painting.
Composer Persis Vehar will be attending Saturday’s performance of her concerto “City of Light” for clarinet and orchestra. Featured performer will be clarinetist Eileen Young.
Vehar arrived in Salisbury Wednesday in order to participate in music clinics being provided this week for students at Carson High School and West Rowan High School. Vehar and Young together will be instructing students in beginning composition. The clinic is made possible by a Mona Lisa Wallace Arts-In-Education Grant.
The “City of Light” Concerto is a musical depiction of Buffalo, N.Y.’s transition from gas to electric lighting at the close of the 19th century.
Since it was located close to hydroelectric power created by Niagra Falls, Buffalo was the first city to be illuminated by electric power. During the Pan American Exposition of 1901, Buffalo earned the name “City of Light.”
Vehar has received commissions and performances by some of the leading orchestras and opera houses in both Europe and the United States. She has received 24 ASCAP Awards and six Meet the Composer grants. She has served as Composer-in-Residence at Canisius College in Buffalo for over a decade.
The movements of “City of Light” have descriptive titles illustrated by exploration of a wide array of instrumental timbres and combinations. Movements are titled “Flickerings in Stained Glass Windows,” “Illumina,” (which opens with the solo clarinet presentation of the medieval Gregorian chant Illumina faciem tuam), and “The Body Electric,” taken from Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem “I Sing the Body Electric.”
The solo cadenza in the last movement puts the soloist through a gamut of virtuoso techniques including harmonics, pitch bending, flutter tonguing, multiphonics and glissandi.
Soloist Eileen Young performs as bass clarinetist in the Winston-Salem Symphony and as principal clarinetist with the Salisbury Symphony and the Carolina Chamber Symphony. She is the former bass clarinetist with the North Carolina Symphony.
As instructor of clarinet, saxophone and woodwind ensembles at Wake Forest University, Young also performs with the WFU Faculty Wind Quintet. She formed and conducts the WFU Clarinet Choir and Saxophone Ensemble and coaches the WFU Clarinet Quartet and the Premier Saxophone Quartet.
She received the Doctor of Musical Arts and the Master of Music degrees in clarinet performance from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she was a winner in the Concerto Competition. She also received the Master of Music degree in saxophone from the UNC School of the Arts.
Following an intermission, Symphony No. 7 “Noon” by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) will be performed, demonstrating that tone painting and musical imagery are not confined to modern music.
This youthful work, composed when Haydn was just 29, is the second of three works he wrote to represent the parts of the day, morning, noon and evening.
The title of the concert comes from the title of the final piece to be performed, “Chasing Light” by Joseph Schwantner (b. 1943).
The Schwantner work is the second composition commissioned through the national Ford Made in America project, a collaboration between the American Symphony Orchestra League and Meet the Composer and funded mostly by the Ford Motor Company and National Endowment for the Arts.
This is the second time Salisbury Symphony has participated in the project which allows smaller orchestras throughout the country to combine funding to commission a major composer to create a new work. The Salisbury Symphony also presented the North Carolina premier of the first composition commissioned by the Ford Made in America project, Joan Tower’s “Made in America,” during the 2006-07 concert season.
Joseph Schwantner has served on the faculties of renowned music schools: Julliard, Eastman, and Yale. He is a Pulitzer Prize winner, and his commissions include those for the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
As the second Ford Made in America composer, Schwantner’s “Chasing Light” received its world premiere with the Reno Chamber Orchestra in September of 2008.
Schwantner was inspired by a winter sunrise to compose “Chasing Light.” He says the work “draws its spirit, energy and inspiration from the celebration of vibrant colors and light that penetrate the morning mist as it wafts through the trees in the high New England hills. Like a delicate dance, those images intersected with a brief original poem that helped fire my musical imagination.”
The poem is:
“Beneath the sickle moon, sunrise ignites daybreak’s vale;
Calliope’s rainbowed song cradles heaven’s arc;
Piercing, shadowy pines, a kaleidoscope blooms
As morning’s embrace confronts the dawn.”
This poem will be the basis of a workshop being led by Music Director David Hagy and the symphony’s eduction director, Susan Trivette with chorus students at North Rowan High School. The students will create a suite of pieces using improvisation and composition techniques inspired by Schwantner’s poem.
Saturday’s concert will be followed by a reception provided compliments of CArolina Beverage/Cheerwine and Apple Baking Company..
In recognition of the Ford Motor Company’s contribution to this performance, on display will be the 1927 Model T Ford in which John Strickland drove across the country this summer. next to it will be a 2010 Ford Taurus from Cloninger Ford.
Admission to the concert is adult $20; senior $17; student $6; children $4. Tickets are available at Convention and Visitors Bureau, A Step in Time, Sidewalk Deli, Belk, Green Goat Gallery and Crescent Pharmacy and from the Salisbury Symphony office.
For more information, call 704-637-4314 or visit