The Salisbury Symphony dances their way into the audienceís hearts
By Sarah Hall
for the Salisbury Post
There was a big turnout for the Salisbury Symphonyís latest concert Saturday night in Catawba Collegeís Keppel Auditorium. The popularity of the performance is not surprising, given that it offered something for everyone.
For those listeners who want to hear familiar themes that they know and love, they got what they craved. The ěDanceî-themed concert included an abundance of popular musical moments from Broadway and movies.
For the more serious musical connoisseur, there was plenty to seek oneís teeth-into, an abundance of compositional substance from three of Americaís finest composers: Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Notice I said ěfinest composersî and not ěfinest Broadway composers.î The work of these three gentlemen exhibits the best in compositional craftsmanship, and proves that popular music can be taken seriously as an art form.
If the music itself were not enough reason to get people into the concert hall, there was also the promise of dancers from Piedmont Dance Theatre. This dance company has developed quite a following in Salisbury through their yearly Nutcracker appearances with the Symphony, and people have come to expect a high degree of talent and preparation from these young dancers. And they did not disappoint, as the concert culminated with the dancersí presentation to Bernsteinís ěSymphonic Dances from ëWest Side Story.î
This concert was also a chance for the Symphonyís principals to demonstrate their versatility, showing off their jazz chops along with their classic technique. In spite of the demanding virtuosic passages, especially in the Bernstein selections, the musicians were relaxed and confident throughout.
Music Director David Hagy provided commentary prior to each selection to prepare the audience for what they would be hearing. This made up for the absence of notes in the printed program. Here again, Hagyís explanations could appeal to different types of audience members.
His summary of plots explained the actions being depicted musically in the pieces, helping the people who perhaps were unfamiliar with that particular show. Hagyís descriptions made us conjure up in our minds the creaky merry-go-round in Rodgerís ěCarousel Waltz,î sailors on leave wandering through New York in Bernsteinís ěOn the Town,î the musical picture painted (aided by pitched car horns and jazz) in Gershwinís ěAmerican in Paris.î And even though everyone may know the famous songs from Rodgerís ěOklahoma,î they may be less familiar with the way in which they are arranged in the showís ground-breaking ěDream Ballet.î
Hagy also pointed out motives, musical devices, and even made mention of Bernsteinís employment of the 12-tone technique, not just to enrich the listenersí experience, but to also give credence to the musical value of the compositions.
Dancer and instructor Daniel Wiley performed in the role of Tony for the ěWest Side Storyî sequence. He serves as artistic co-director of Piedmont Dance Theatre along with his wife, Rebecca Massey Wiley. The only other male dancer participating in Saturdayís performance was Luke Griffin in the Officer Krupke role. This meant the Jets and the Sharks were all portrayed by girls. But they pulled it off well, projecting convincingly masculine swagger and jazzy athleticism in contrast to the ballet movements of the dancers in female roles. Alana Isiguen provided a graceful Maria to Wileyís Tony.
The audience came to be entertained, and they demonstrated their approval. The applause at the end of ěAmerican in Parisî before the intermission, was prolonged and sincere. And the standing ovation following the Bernstein combination of fine musicianship and excellent dancing was joyfully vociferous.
The concert provided an outstanding conclusion to Salisbury Symphonyís 44th season. But you donít have to wait long to hear them again. On the evening of June 4, they will be presenting the annual ěPops at the Post,î with a free concert played from the loading dock of Salisbury Post at the corner of West Innes and South Church streets. See you there.