Orchestral Music Review Print



Salisbury Symphony Orchestra Solves the Mysteries of the Music

May 8, 2010 - Salisbury, NC:


"Solving Mysteries" was the theme of the final concert of the Salisbury Symphony's regular season, given in Keppel Auditorium of Catawba College. Music Director David Hagy programmed a collection of light classical works which have familiar themes but whose origin you might not know.

The grand opening was "Graduation," which could be none other than the "Pomp and Circumstance" March No. 1 of Edward Elgar (1857-1934). Of course, many do not realize that there is more to the piece than one usually hears at graduation. One would be hard pressed to find a grander and more regal performance of this work anywhere than was presented here. Even the Last Night of the Proms at London's Royal Albert Hall would have been jealous.

"A Letter from Camp" recalled Allan Sherman's 1963 hit, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, Here I am at Camp Granada," actually "Dance of the Hours" from La Giaconda by Amilcare Ponchielli (1834-1886). Of course, one would have to be of a certain age to recognize this as anything but from an opera.

Alfred Hitchcock made an appearance in "A Half Hour of the Macabre," which uses as the opening theme for the show the "Funeral March of a Marionette" by Charles Gounod (1818-93). This piece features a clarinet solo, which was wonderfully played by Eileen Young, Principal Clarinetist.

"A Vamp Flirts" recalled the opera Carmen, by Georges Bizet (1838-75), and the title character's seductive dance, the "Habanera"; it was played lustily by the orchestra.

"An Attempt at Delicacy" brought back visions of elephants and hippos in tutus from Walt Disney's film Fantasia when the orchestra played "Pizzicati" by Léo Delibes (1836-91), from his ballet Sylvia. Using mostly pizzicato (plucked) strings, the performance was very delicate indeed, with not a lumbering footstep to be heard.

On a more serious note, the orchestra played the "Adagio for Strings," by Samuel Barber (1910-81); it has become a metaphor for loss or tragedy. This piece was dedicated to Dr. Albert Chaffoo, the founding conductor of the Salisbury Symphony, who recently died at the age of 93.

It has been said that the sign of an educated person is one who can hear the William Tell Overture by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868) without thinking of the Lone Ranger (again an age thing...), but Maestro Hagy would not let us forget where we usually hear this piece, try as we may. It was certainly played with great fury in the storm, followed with pastoral sweetness of the calm, and ending in grand triumph for all.

Almost everyone knows the Olympic theme that is heard on television. Most do not know that its real title is "Bugler's Dream" from Charge!, or that it is a much longer work for brass and percussion written by Leo Arnaud (1904-91). Arnaud was a film composer who settled in Yadkin County, NC, after his retirement and is buried in Hamptonville, NC. Here the players were in all their glory playing this grand fanfare with great gusto.

For romance, any number of themes could have been chosen, but Mr. Hagy settled on "Waltz" from the ballet Sleeping Beauty by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-93), a delicate and lovely theme familiar to most everyone.

We have all heard the waltz associated with tightrope walkers and trapeze artists and often played by circus organs, but few know that it was written by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas (1868-94). It was also used for the tune "The Loveliest Night of the Year" from the film The Great Caruso. While the orchestra played, the "tightrope" walker balanced himself on the edge of the stage, ushering in the All County Fifth-Grade Honors Chorus.

This is the fourteenth year that the Fifth-Grade Honors Chorus has performed with the Salisbury Symphony. They opened with "Almost There," by Randy Newman (b.1943), from Disney's The Princess and the Frog, and then sang "Why We Sing" by Greg Gilpin (b.1964). This is the first time that I can recall that they have sung in parts, and they were spectacular. Their parents and teachers have every right to be proud of this wonderful group of singers.

The victorious conclusion of the concert was the "Triumphal March" from the opera Aïda by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). This was grand opera at its grandest, with magnificent trumpet fanfares and solos by Luke Boudreault, Greg Hall, Jay Meachum, and Alex Fisher.

What a wonderful way to end the season! Although the program was "light" classical music, there was nothing light about the performance. These musicians worked hard and produced a very fine concert. All it lacked to rival the Boston Pops was the tables with food and wine!