Maryland Symphony Orchestra has big weekend on tap
The Maryland Symphony Orchestra will play at home and away the weekend of Saturday, Nov. 16, and Sunday, Nov. 17, as it presents The American Symphony.
The concert featuring a fanfare composed by Kimo Williams, Symphony No. 1 in E minor by Florence Price and Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World” will hit the stage of The Maryland Theatre Saturday evening and then travel to the Pealer Performing Arts Center at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Md., for a Sunday matinee.
The Sunday performance is part of FSU’s Cultural Events Series, known as CES. Melanie Moore, CES associate director, said the entity of the university brings national and international touring artists to the Frostburg campus and surrounding communities with a mission of providing opportunities for economic, educational and cultural engagement.
“This is 16th year of the MSO on the CES season,” Moore said. “So basically, we collaborate with and choose a performance of the MSO regular season to be performed at FSU.”
This year’s collaboration falls during the week of Veterans Day and focuses on the concept of celebrating the American spirit. With that in mind, organizers in Frostburg noted that while most auditoriums have a dedicated flag on display, Pealer Recital Hall did not have one at the facility.
“We will pay tribute to military veterans and service members with a brief, formal, flag dedication ceremony led by the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter No. 172 of Cumberland, Maryland,” Moore said. “It’s amazing how many patrons notice when there is not a flag present in the theater. We are going to solve this at this performance.”
The flag will become a permanent fixture at the hall.
MSO music director Elizabeth Schulze will lead a prelude at 2 p.m., discussing the works to be performed. Following the flag dedication at 2:30 p.m., the concert will begin at 3 p.m., with the first half featuring the pieces of Williams and Price.
Williams, who is a resident of Shepherdstown, W.Va, has received accolades including Vietnam Veterans of America’s Excellence in the Arts Award. Actor Gary Sinise, a co-founder of the Lt. Dan Band, which was created to present USO shows for active-duty service members.
Price, who was born in Little Rock, Ark., in 1887 and studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, was the first African-American woman to become widely recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to compose for a major American orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her work reflects her Southern roots, Moore said, drawing on blues and African-American spirituals as inspiration for her arrangements.
“Her compositions almost vanished from history until 2009, when her manuscripts turned up somewhere in Chicago,” Moore said.
The second half of the concert will spotlight the work of Bohemian composer Dvorak. His Symphony No. 9, “From the New World” offers rhythms and melodies of Native American and African-American songs and dances. In 1892, while serving as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, the composer shared his belief that those styles should be used as a foundation for the growth of American music.
“He talked about how Americans should use what was theirs to create their own unique national style of music. That helps to tie the program together,” Moore said.
While the MSO concert coincides with the CES mission to offer performance and outreach, it also supports the group’s educational aspirations. During October, MSO musicians led a master class in cello and flute for FSU students where community members were welcome to observe.
“A few of our students played for them, and they provided critique and guidance on how to improve their performance,” Moore said.
Further bolstering experiential education, a CES student production team will work in the box office, the front of the house and in hospitality, and a student technical crew will help support execution of the performance.
“Students will have opportunities to take phone calls, process ticket sales and follow the process through. We also have a centralized tech crew that helps not only with CES events, and they will be involved with running lights and setting up the stage for the MSO,” Moore said.
There was one time in recent years when MSO was not included on the CES season.
“Community patrons have come to expect it. They vocalized a desire to bring it back,” Moore said. “They said, ‘Where is MSO?’”
CES is in talks now with MSO staff to secure and commit to collaborations for the next three years.
Top photo: Herald-Mail file photo