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The Durham Symphony Orchestra, under the inspiring leadership of William Henry Curry, presented a concert of light classics including lilting melodies, triumphant fanfares, and stirring marches. Also participating in the program were 27 members of the awesome KidZnotes program and their assistant artistic director/conductor, Rashad Hayward. Shelley Livingston, principal second violinist of the DSO, also appeared in her role as assistant conductor of two selections on the program.
The opening number was the "Farandole" from George Bizet's popular L'Arlesienne Suite No. 2. This is a lively Provençal dance in which men and women hold hands, form a chain, and follow a leader through a serpentine course. It began with a stately fanfare-like passage, moved through a lively woodwind section, and became more exciting and energetic as it progressed toward its bright and rousing finish.
There was bit of uncertainty in the ensemble at the beginning, but the orchestra settled in for a fine performance. Curry demonstrated the skill of experience and the wisdom of a good ear in the adjustments made for the orchestra to accommodate the extremely lively acoustic challenges of the Emily K Center.
Light Cavalry Overture by Franz von Suppe was given a bright and thrilling ride under Curry's practiced wand. A polished trumpet fanfare introduced the piece, followed by a full orchestra response, then a presentation of the fanfare by lower brass and woodwinds, followed again by a full orchestral response and then by the mellow trombones playing the fanfare again. The piece developed dramatically with the familiar galloping theme and built to a grand finale by blending the fanfare theme and the galloping theme triumphantly.
The performance was a clear demonstration of the progress the DSO continues to make under Curry's guidance.
The next two selections were conducted by Livingston. First was a marvelously charming piece by Florence Price, orchestrated by William Grant Still: "Tropical Noon" is a hypnotizing, gently swaying lullaby. Livingston provided solid tempo and expressive cues and the orchestra followed her comfortably and effectively.
The second piece under Livingston's direction was Ragtime master Scott Joplin's "A Real Slow Drag," from his opera Treemonisha, a quite enjoyable duet in the opera that begins as a gently shuffling ragtime piece and develops in dramatic operatic style.
Curry returned to the podium to lead "Coronation March" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. First performed in St. Petersburg in 1885 conducted by Hans von Bulow, it was played at the opening of Carnegie Hall in 1891. This rambunctious march, unmistakably in Tchaikovsky's style, gave the orchestra the opportunity to play full force.
The concert continued as the 27 grand participants of the KidZnotes program took their seats, blended in with the orchestra. Hayward stepped onto the podium and led the supplemented orchestra in "Beyond the Forest" from the soundtrack of The Hobbit. Lush and dramatic music flowed into the gymnasium, filling it with the sounds of another world, another time. This was unmistakably enriched by the addition of the young developing musicians.
Next Hayward raised his baton and brought it down on the first resounding chord of Beethoven's thrilling Egmont Overture. The enthusiasm of the orchestra was palpable. You could feel it as well as hear it: the pain, the longing, the humanity, the anger – all the emotion Beethoven himself felt and expressed in the music he wrote. The strings were warm and rich. The woodwinds were exciting. The percussion were precise and dramatic and the brass were dynamic and mellow as was called for.
In this performance, the audience was involved, inspired by the performance of young and more mature and the gift of music they shared. We look forward to the future as KidZnotes participants grow in skill and understanding. The enthusiastic applause said it loud and clear.
For the grand finale, Maestro Curry returned to the podium to conduct "The Throne Room" and "End Title" from John Williams iconic music for Star Wars. It was resplendent with heroic themes, triumphant fanfares and gloriously soaring music played masterfully by the Durham Symphony Orchestra.