Orchestral Music Review



April-Showered Pops Concert Still a Delight

April 19, 2009 - Durham, NC:


A springtime pops concert brings music outdoors where it began with the sound of wind blowing across reeds, birds twittering in the air, the laughter and chatter of children playing nearby, and the rumble of thunder in the distance. It adds a special touch to all music, but it also invites the possibility of conflict between "Mother Nature" and modern musical instruments, which can be especially sensitive to extreme heat and critically sensitive to raindrops! The Durham Symphony Orchestra was set up on the blocked-off street at Trinity Park on this April-shower afternoon with dark gray clouds overhead. The uncertainty gossiped through the umbrella-equipped crowd gathered in the park as maestro Wayne Wyman was introduced by DSO President Hope Hills and who, in turn, introduced a concert of "Heroes, Dreamers & Lovers."

The opening selection, "Themes from 007," made it clear the audience was in for a special treat. The tension-filled, jazzy, and suave music provided by a variety of composers and arranged for orchestra by Calvin Custer soared out over the crowd in a way the best equipped Dolby Surround Sound theatre could not match. Our macho hero came to life in a fine performance.

Wyman, in his spiffy white dinner jacket, introduced the next piece with a summary of the adventures of our next hero/dreamer: Don Quixote, the "Man of La Mancha." He pulled out an outlandish long toy sword and suggested that it would make an ideal baton to conduct the selections from the Broadway musical. However, the orchestra's concertmaster, Anne Leyland, sitting only a few feet from the conductor, nixed that idea. So with the normal baton, the lively, heroic, and sentimental music of the hit musical filled the neighborhood with delight and pleasure.

An ominous gust of wind whipped through the park and the musicians, officials, volunteers, and the audience all crossed their fingers and hoped. The Carmen Suite No. 1, edited by Fritz Hoffman, began with the spicy Spanish tang of the overture, and we knew that Wyman (whose specialty is opera) was at home and the orchestra was riding comfortably on his expertise. The woodwinds were wonderful and the strings danced with stirring rhythm while the brass were ready to show off their excitement with this most popular of operas. Micaela's tender aria was beautifully played by the flutes. But just as Escamillo, the Toreador, was about to make his grand appearance, the raindrops began a light but steady dance. Wyman announced that there would be a ten minute "wait and see" break. After assessing the sky and the doppler radar reports, it was obvious that the musicians could not be asked to risk their precious instruments any further and the remainder of the concert was cancelled.

However, we did get to experience a hero, a dreamer and a lover. Regrettably, we missed "Two Hearts in 3/4 Time," "Video Game Music Medley," Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet - Overture-Fantasy, and "Salute to Ol' Blue Eyes." But take heart, the complete concert will be performed at Cameron Park in Hillsborough at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, April 26, and again at Piney Woods Park in Durham at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 2. Check our Triangle Calendar for details.

Wayne Wyman, known to Triangle audiences for his work with Capital Opera and Long Leaf Opera and at other venues across America, is the last of the five top candidates being considered to fill the post of Music Director, held by Maestro Alan Neilson for 23 years before his retirement last February. The others under consideration are William Henry Curry, Resident Conductor of the North Carolina Symphony; Harry Davidson, Music Director of the Duke University Orchestra; Fouad Fakhouri, Music Director of the Fayetteville Symphony and Andrew McAfee, Conductor of the Triangle Youth Ballet.

The Board of Directors will be meeting the week of May 3-10 to wrestle through the difficult task of choosing just one of these five outstanding musicians as the next Music Director of the Durham Symphony Orchestra. Their decision, fed by input from the orchestra members and many other community sources will be keenly anticipated and warmly applauded, no matter which maestro will be leading the DSO next season and beyond.