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‘Transformations’: Salisbury Symphony season will have ‘artistic feeling’

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

They say art imitates life. Can music imitate art?

Maestro David Hagy thinks so. As conductor of the Salisbury Symphony, he’s built the upcoming season, “Transformations,” around a gorgeous painting by Ales Pancner. If you look closely, you’ll see if contains the curve of a violin, and musical notes.

“It puts an artistic feeling into the season,” Hagy says.

So maybe art imitates music?

Nevertheless, Hagy has planned a truly artful season, with all of the concerts sporting one-word monikers. The concerts are staged at Catawba College’s Keppel Auditorium unless otherwise noted.

“Triumph” kicks off the season on Oct. 17. It features Sibelius’ “Symphony No. 2,” along with a Piano Concerto No. 1 with pianist Renee McCachren.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Jean Sibelius, the well-known Finnish composer who wrote the beautiful “Finlandia.”

“He is Finland’s hero,” Hagy notes. “After writing, ‘Finlandia,’ that cemented it. His approach was as a modern, Finnish Beethoven.”

That’s exactly why Hagy matched the Sibelius piece with the Beethoven concerto, as well as the composer’s “Egmont Overture.”

All three pieces, Hagy says, carry the theme of triumph.

On Feb. 6, 2016, the N.C. Symphony performs in Salisbury under the theme “Home.” This concert will feature three dance episodes from Bernstein’s “On the Town,” as well as two movements of “Ma Vlast,” by Smetana: “The Moldau” and “Sarka.”

The evening ends with “Hiraeth,” written by Sarah Kirkland Snider about her childhood memories of Salisbury.

On March 12, Hagy will present a program of “Remembrance.”

“I don’t often do programs that have a twinge of sadness,” Hagy says, but this one does.

Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 6 Pathetique” fits the bill — four movements of turmoil and love, a beautifully balanced waltz (5 beats to the measure), a Scherzo march and an elegiac final movement.

“It fades away, with just the basses dying away,” Hagy says.

Ten days after the symphony’s premiere, Tchaikovsky was dead. Hagy believes he committed suicide because he was gay.

“It is a major work,” Hagy notes. “There are times when orchestras could provide solace. I hope a lot of people come for solace. People who want to hear beautiful melodies should come for this concert.”

The concert also includes Duffy’s “Heritage Fanfare,” “In Memory — H.H.L” by Locklair, and a Sibelius violin concerto, featuring North Carolina native Bryan Hall.

Even though the Duffy piece was written for a television show about the Holocaust, it is triumphant, and a positive way to begin the concert.

The Locklair piece balances that with only strings. It was written in memory of the composer’s mother, Hester Helms Locklair, who died the same year — 2011 — as Hagy’s mother, Mary.

“The thought of remembering Mom felt appropriate in this concert,” Hagy says.

Hagy characterizes the concerto as the single hardest violin piece he knows. It’s technically and musically demanding, and only the best violinists can play it.

Hall is one of those musicians.

He now teaches in Alaska, but assured Hagy the piece would not be a problem.

“We’re getting a world-class violinist,” Hagy says. “This is a very special performance.”

The two have shared the stage previously, when Hagy directed the Peter Perret Talent Search concert in 1998.

The family concert, “Animals” is set for April 10 in the Livingstone College gym. They need the room to accommodate the symphony, Rowan County Fifth Grade Honors Chorus, Livingstone College Concert Choir, and Livingstone College Band.

The concert will feature songs from Disney’s “The Lion King,” Bartok’s “Bear Dance,” and Fine’s “Childhood Fables for Grownups” featuring baritone Robert Overman, along with excerpts from “Carnival of the Animals,” by Saint-Saens.

“We think it can work,” Hagy says of the venue. “Children can come sit among the orchestra members, if they like.”

Scenes from upcoming high school musicals are a part of the pops concert, “Musicals” on May 7. Hagy has invited all of the Rowan County high schools to participate.

Also part of the upcoming season is the Nutcracker on Dec. 19-20, and Pops at the Post on June 4 in Downtown Salisbury.

Season subscriptions are on sale now. For more information, call 704-637-4314 or email Linda Jones, the symphony’s executive director, at ljones@catawba.edu.

Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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