The Long Bay Youth Symphony (LBYS) and Long Bay Youth String Ensemble (LBYSE) are easily considered two of the Symphony’s greatest accomplishments in our 36-year history. Being a part of so many young musicians’ journeys is an invaluable experience for the music directors, youth managers, and patrons alike. It's a treasure for us to witness even just a moment in the careers of the many students who come through either—and often both—youth groups. Because we are typically a part of their musical careers while they are in middle and high school, we are often curious about what they go on to do when they graduate beyond our youth symphonies.
I had the pleasure of corresponding with Abigail Stewart and Grace Leonard, two LBYS alumni, who have gone on to do amazing things in their budding musical careers:
What is your instrument and how did your journey with it start?
I play the Viola! My journey with the instrument began in 6th grade strings class at St. James Middle School.
Can you speak a little about your time in the Long Bay Youth Symphony (how long you were a part, your greatest takeaways, etc.)?
I was in the Long Bay Youth Symphony for three years. LBYS taught me how to effectively play in an ensemble, exposed me to great symphonic repertoire, and introduced me to some of my closest friends.
Where are you now and how is music still a part of your everyday life?
I am currently a student at the Cleveland Institute of Music, a conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. At CIM, I study and practice every day with the hope of becoming a professional musician. I aspire to play in an orchestra, play in a string quartet, teach, or all three!
Is there any advice you would give to young musicians who are maybe in the early stages of learning their instrument?
My biggest piece of advice to a younger musician would be to be consistent as possible with your practice. The early stages of learning a stringed instrument is quite similar to building muscle. It is more effective to practice one hour every day than three hours every three days! On that note, it is important to remember that the road to success, whatever it may be, is a journey. Do not be discouraged if your goals are not reached right away! Little by little, with practice, you will find your way.
What is your instrument and how did your journey with it start?
My main instrument is the French Horn. As an indispensable member of the orchestra, the horn plays an integral part of the melody and counter-melody often during the emotionally climatic parts of the music. It is capable of such poetic and dynamic sound, especially in movie and game soundtracks. The yearning to be an instrumentalist who can convey such emotion and grandeur is what urged me to pick up the horn as my main instrument.
Can you speak a little about your time in the Long Bay Youth Symphony (how long you were a part, your greatest takeaways, etc.)?
I had the pleasure to be a part of the Long Bay Youth Symphony for two non-consecutive years. The routine of practice, rehearsal, and performance depicts the life of an orchestral musician, and sets an example for those who want to pursue a career in the world of classical music. The experience of working with other musicians weekly taught me the importance of reliability and collaboration. Long Bay Youth Symphony helped me realize the aspect I value the most in orchestral performance is the tight-knit closeness one feels to their peers and the music itself while sharing the experience of making music.
Where are you now and how is music still a part of your everyday life?
I’m currently an undergraduate student at Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University studying Music for New Media where I learn the art of composing for games and movies. Analyzing movie and game soundtracks has become a part of my daily life and has allowed me to appreciate video games and cinema from a completely different perspective. In order to further comprehend the artistry and details of composition, I have recently started taking composition lessons with an established British composer, Dr. Tristan A. L. Latchford, and had the pleasure of performing in his most recent recorded concert series, ‘An Organist’s Songbook,’ which will be released in October.
Is there any advice you would give to young musicians who are maybe in the early stages of learning their instrument?
One’s love and passion is the best motivator for art and craft. Learn to appreciate and have fun with daily tasks like practicing and ear training. Although they can be exhausting at times, remember that your passion and fun was the reason you started and chose to continue this journey and you will be able to look at those practice sessions with a lighter heart and approach practice in a more fun way. Also, don’t limit yourself to the bare minimum participation in performances. If you take every opportunity you encounter, the experience of collaboration with your peers will greatly strengthen your skills and confidence.
Come out and witness the talent of these young musicians for yourself! The first LBYS Fall Concert takes place Nov. 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the MBHS Music & Arts Center. Tickets are $10 for adults and free for students. Whether you are seeing them perform for the first time or come to every concert, you will leave knowing it is a true privilege to be even a small part of their musical journeys.
Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., otherwise known as John Denver, moved to Los Angeles in 1963 to start his career in music at the age of 20. Shortly after, he was selected to join the band Mitchell Trio as a vocalist, where he found his own groove within singing and songwriting. By the late 1960’s, he decided to go solo, creating the music we all know and love today, like “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” and “Rocky Mountain High.”
In 1997, at the age of 53, Denver tragically died in a plane crash. His songs famously live on today, and we celebrate his contributions to American music each time we hear a song on the radio or perform them live on the stage.
Tom Becker, a known John Denver tribute artist, will join the Long Bay Symphony on October 21st to carry on the legacy of both John Denver and Glen Campbell, two American musical icons.
Becker began his musical journey at the age of 12 when his dad gifted him a Sears Silvertone guitar for Christmas.
“After I got better at the guitar than he did, he quit playing,” Becker told me.
Becker found inspiration in the music of John Denver, James Taylor, Jim Croce, and Glen Campbell. By his early twenties, he regularly performed in clubs in the Chicago area until he got the chance to audition with the New Christy Minstrels, a folk group from the 1960’s. After landing the audition, Becker toured for three years, performing all over the United States and Europe.
“It was one of the best musical experiences of my life,” Becker said. “During that time, I started honing my songwriting skills. Eventually my original songs became a regular part of the group’s performances.”
After leaving the New Christy Minstrels, Becker moved to Nashville, Tennessee where he continued writing his own songs, one of which was selected as the Official Commemorative Song for the Navy Memorial dedication in Washington, DC. “Sailor” was inspired in part by John Denver.
Becker started performing in various locations across the country, often coming back to Nashville to write more of his own songs. On one of these trips back to Nashville, he met Michelle, a fellow singer/songwriter.
“When I returned to Colorado, I called her about some song ideas but we ended up connecting on a whole other level. I even wrote a song about it. It ended up being our love song. Needless to say, I moved back to Nashville to be with her.”
As a musical duo, they decided to call themselves “Latitudes.” They played music together in Nashville for a time before receiving a phone call for a gig in Myrtle Beach. One year later, Michelle and Becker were married and decided to call South Carolina home.
“We’ve been lucky to have found a niche here and are blessed to have some amazing fans who love our original music.”
“In recent years, I began to feel that John Denver’s music and message were more important than ever. John was talking about environmental issues long before today’s emphasis on ‘going green.’ Not to mention you rarely hear his music on the radio.”
Because of this, Becker and Michelle decided to put a tribute band together titled “Back Home Again –A Tribute to John Denver,” and have performed in theaters all over the country. Their first symphony show was with—none other than—the Long Bay Symphony in 2011. Since then, they have performed with the Sarasota Pops Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony, Texas A&M Symphony, and more.
“John’s music has always spoken to me, but it was his message about protecting our planet that really did it for me,” Becker said. “I wanted to ‘walk the talk’ concerning John’s mission to bring awareness for protecting our environment.”
In an effort to continue John Denver’s work for the environment, Becker and his band donate portions of CD and DVD sales to Plant It 2020, a John Denver foundation that performs worldwide tree-planting, donates fuel-efficient cooking stoves to needy families, and provides forestry, soil, and biochar education. So far, through their John Denver tribute shows, Becker and his band have planted over 4,000 trees in Denver’s name.
“We’re so looking forward to sharing the stage again with conductor Dr. Charles Evans and The Long Bay Symphony,” Becker said. “There's nothing that compares to performing on stage with an orchestra. The sound and feeling are simply amazing.”
To learn more about Tom and Michelle Becker, be sure to check them out online at www.tomandmichellemusic.com .
To learn more about Plant It 2020, visit https://plantit2020.org.
Any opportunity where the cultural arts can join forces to give our community a well-rounded, artistic experience is something we want to be a part of. The Long Bay Symphony is excited to partner with Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery at our first Masterworks concert on September 24. Patrons will be able to view artwork by gallery owner Thomas Davis and guest artist Kimberly Grigg in the lobby before the concert and during intermission. To top it all off, Davis will also be live-painting a scene during the concert.
To get to know the artists prior to the concert, I asked Thomas Davis and Kimberly Grigg to share a bit about their journeys as artists in the Myrtle Beach community.
Thomas Davis, Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery Owner
My family first arrived in Myrtle Beach in 1954. I grew up loving to go to the beach, and I still do. My family has always appreciated the simple life on the ocean. Myrtle Beach is a special place to live.
My love of the arts began as a child. I took classical art classes all through high school and into my college years at Clemson and CCU. In the mid 80’s, I left SC and moved to Atlanta to pursue a career in Advertising. It wasn’t long after that I realized the beach was calling me back. I returned to Myrtle Beach and worked in advertising for three years. In 1991, my mother took me to New York to see the Matisse Exhibit. It was then that I knew for certain that I wanted to create beautiful art, so I began painting the beauty of our own low country and coast. I soon began travelling through Europe applying what I learned from visiting museums in other countries. This is when my own technique of bright colors and oils began to develop. This was my epiphany moment: I realized I could do this for the rest of my life. Monet inspired the landscapes I create, while Picasso and Matisse gave me the liberty to be bold and express myself through color.
My mother was a huge influence on my love of the arts. In 1994, she and I took a trip to Paris. It was there that I saw the integration of arts at the local bistros, where artists could sell their works right off the walls of these little cafes. This inspired me to open Collectors Café and Gallery in 1994. Collectors Café enabled me to showcase not only my own art but many other local up and coning artists, giving them the opportunity to show their pieces where they otherwise couldn’t. It was one of my great pleasures of owning Collectors Café for 26 years. Unfortunately, in 2020, a fire brought the success of Collectors Café to an end. After that, I spent my time travelling and wondering how to bring back a place where I could showcase not only my own art, but again, the works of other local artists. In 2022, Donna and I found the answer, and we opened the ‘Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery’, creating a space to showcase art in our local community. Through marketing, our gallery’s art shows, special events, and collaborations with other entities of the arts, such as the Long Bay Symphony, we are able to support the cultural arts scene and watch it thrive in Myrtle Beach.
I feel the heartbeat of our community has always been fueled by culture and the arts. It is so important to feed this and offer growth opportunities to new artists in all areas. This is why I joined the Cultural Resources Committee for the City of Myrtle Beach in 2020 as well as why it was so important for us to open the Thomas Davis Island Fox Art Gallery. It is my desire to continue to bring art to our city and express my vision through color and bold brush strokes.
Kimberly Griggs, Guest Artist
Growing up on a hog farm in a small town promotes a certain type of creativity. When not performing chores, schoolwork or extracurricular activities, I drew house plans (feverishly!). This prompted my love for interior design and all things creative.
I learned to sew and make things. Anything creative that I took on was fostered by my highly creative and energetic grandmother. My dad was also very creative, and I often spent Saturdays helping him with projects like reupholstering the seats on our family boat!
As an adult, I opened my active and successful interior design business, Knotting Hill Interiors. The work challenged my creativity but also fostered an inability to “wind down” in the evenings and on the weekends. Eventually, I turned to painting to help steady my pace and to help me relax. Once all six of my children (shared, adopted, and biological) left the nest, my painting practice flourished into, not only a vibrant hobby, but also a second profession!
As my art practice grew, so did my choice of mediums. As an interior designer, I use many different tools, including wallpaper and fabrics, to create rooms that tend to be dramatic, colorful, and possess a little flair for the “extraordinary”! I knew that I would need similar tools to work with in my art practice. Hence, I began to work as a mixed media artist. I am always searching for elements to use in my artwork. Often, I use fabrics, wallpapers, tile, and trash! I work these components into my endless variety of collage papers, paints, and whatever materials I can get my hands on to create interesting and expressive art. I spend countless hours “arranging on canvas” just as I arrange furniture in a room. This method tends to produce interesting original pieces, but is also, deeply satisfying.
I am fascinated with faces and the human form as well as work that depicts rooms or excerpts from rooms, and I often use these elements in my art. I like to incorporate “tablescapes” into my creations, which is as natural for me as breathing.
Along the way in my artistic journey, I aligned myself with other artists within our community. I find that the Myrtle Beach community of artists tends to be broad and extremely giving. My long-term friendship with Tommy Davis and the Island Fox Art Gallery has blossomed and flourished. My admiration of what Tommy has created is endless. Not only has he built his own artistic brand, but he has strived for excellence and helped pave the way for the progression of the cultural arts community.
Creativity and the arts are vital to our community, no matter what medium that is expressed. I hear people often say that they aren’t creative. To that I say, “poppycock”! Everyone is creative; it’s all about how you go about fostering it. The cultural arts community provides many such outlets and I am grateful for that. As our arts movement continues to grow and prosper in our area, I am so happy and proud to be a part of it. I have the deepest respect for the artisans who express their craft but also those who work endlessly to promote the programs that exist in our area.
Please see below for a sneak peak of what will be displayed and available for purchase on Sunday, September 24. The gallery will donate 20% commission of purchased pieces to the Long Bay Symphony.
Jackie O Capri Grotto - $4,200
Surf Myrtle Beach - $6,400
Fox Den at 78th Avenue - $3,700
Our first Masterworks concert will take place on September 24th to kick off the 2023-2024 season, A Symphony for All. The title piece is Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, arguably his most famous piano concerto ever composed. Additionally, the symphony will perform Florence Price’s Symphony No. 1, the first symphony composed by a Black woman to ever be performed by a major orchestra in the 1930’s. The third piece to be performed is a world premiere titled Flourish & Air by Pawleys Island native and Long Bay Youth Symphony alumnus, Joseph R. Kaz.
Kaz’s devotion to composition is an embodiment of the hope we have for all of our Youth Symphony and Youth String Ensemble students, that they may go on to pursue music as a career or stay in touch with their passion for it at the very least. To get to know him a little bit better, I asked Kaz a few questions about his life since graduating beyond the Long Bay Youth Symphony.
To start, can you tell our patrons a little about yourself and how you became interested in composing?
As a native of Pawleys Island, I started making music by studying piano with Harriet Hunter, and then joining band to play the trombone at the Waccamaw schools. From there, I became much more active in instrumental and vocal ensembles around the area – the Indigo Choral Society and Long Bay’s own Youth Symphony to name a few! Composing was something I took a casual interest in very early on, and then I got much more serious about it in high school. I was very fortunate to have amazing teachers at Waccamaw High School, Chris Graham and Suzanne Young, who not only helped me in the music writing process, but also gave me the chance to have my music performed by peers. Dr. Charles Evans with the Long Bay Youth Symphony was no different! I recall to this day Dr. Evans telling me that the piece I wanted to play for the concerto competition my senior year didn’t have a suitable orchestra arrangement, so he asked me to write a piece instead! And thus, my first piece for orchestra, La Terre de Dieu, came to be!
How I came to decide that making music, and specifically composing, was what I wanted to do is a twistier story. I knew after attending the Sewanee Summer Music Festival for the first time that music was what I wanted to do. I then remember having to choose between Ithaca College and UNC Greensboro for school, and it was definitely a loaded choice – Ithaca wanted me to be a composer; UNCG wanted me to be a trombonist. Ultimately, I chose Ithaca College because deep down I knew that composing is really what I wanted to pursue. Interestingly enough, while a freshman at Ithaca, I saw an opera for the first time – a production of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo – and was blown away. That’s when I knew that opera is really what I wanted to do, both as a composer and otherwise, and so I “retired” from playing trombone and doubled down on singing.
Outside of composing, I’m a singer, conductor, and educator in the Washington, DC area. Presently, I’m the head of the music department at the Nysmith School in the DC suburbs, as well as the Chorister Program Director at St. Alban’s DC. As a singer I work with many of DC’s local opera companies including InSeries Opera, Bel Cantanti Opera, Annapolis Opera, and others. When not making music, I spend my time with my two cats, Bug and Malcom, and enjoy a plethora of activities in our nation’s capital.
I’ve read that your opera, Alice Flagg, was inspired by the famous ghost story of Pawleys Island, your hometown. Did your roots similarly inspire your latest world premiere, Flourish and Air, or did you pull inspiration from elsewhere for this piece?
I’ve always taken inspiration from the world around me, particularly my home, for my music. Be it La Terre de Dieu which was inspired by Debordieu just north of Georgetown and a place of incredible significance to my parents, or my piece for wind quintet In the Garden of Statues which was inspired by Brookgreen Gardens. The most notable are three of my operas – my first being Alice Flagg, which is about Pawleys Island's most popular and tragic ghost; The Female Stranger, which is about a peculiar grave in the Washington, DC area; and The Lady in Granite, which is another grave story from the Finger Lakes region of New York.
Flourish and Air, however, did not have a specific geographical emphasis. Rather, I wanted to craft a piece that would work well with the rest of the program for this concert. Price and Rachmaninoff are two very bombastic, yet incredibly lyrical, composers and so I wanted to write a piece that would “foreshadow” that in some ways. With this being said, there are a few subtle references to “growing up” that I snuck into the piece. It starts with the trombone. Then, there is another short trombone solo in the middle, and a lengthy oboe solo for Jessica Miller, who, of course, was the LBYS manager when I was in the ensemble. Furthermore, the composer I draw the most influence from is Puccini, whose opera Tosca was famously described as a “shabby little shocker.” Now, while I think Tosca is much more than that – I would love to have any of my pieces reviewed as “arrogantly shabby.”
Several members of our Youth Symphony have gone on to do incredible things in the musical world, yourself included! Can you speak a little about your time in the Long Bay Youth Symphony and in what ways it helped prepare you for a career in music?
My time with the LBYS was absolutely amazing! There is nothing like playing in an orchestra, and playing in a youth symphony that was so unafraid to conquer some amazing pieces was incredible for me, and I made so many amazing friends who were phenomenal musicians. Waccamaw had an amazing band program, but playing with an orchestra was so much different – it taught me how to be a more independent musician, and it allowed me to become immersed in a much broader range of styles. Making music with Dr. Evans was always a joy, and he always insisted upon us putting intention behind every note we played. This is something that I really took for granted at the time, but as I’ve continued to make music, I now continually remind myself of – and definitely has paid dividends in the audition room!
What advice do you have for the younger generation of composers who are interested in making music their career?
For anyone thinking about pursuing composing, I would say to remember to be honest with yourself about the kind of music you want to write, but to practice writing in as many different styles and with as many different techniques as possible. For me, studying composition has always been about finding more tools to put under my belt and more ways to be expressive. With this being said, the music world is no fairy tale. Find a way to “make it” that isn’t the story book ending of finding a patron or expecting to work solely on commission. Furthermore, keep making music yourself. Never stop performing, as it is one of our greatest teachers.
Hints of nature have a way of showing up in the music we listen to as it’s often a form of inspiration that many composers and musicians grasp onto when in search of creativity. What better place to draw inspiration from than the physical world that constantly shifts, evolves, and moves beautifully around us? To prove my point, we can merely look back on the Masterworks series we’ve had this season; nature has shown up in almost every concert, from William Grant Still’s Wood Notes to Meira Warshauer’s Ahavah.
I got to pick the brain of one of our featured composers for our last Masterworks concerts of our 35thanniversary season, The Planets. Dr. Donald Sloan also took advantage of the large, awe-inspiring canvas that is nature when writing his latest world premiere, Red Sky at Morning.
Can you tell our audience a little about your world premiere piece Red Sky at Morning? What was the inspiration behind it?
This the third piece of mine that the Long Bay Symphony has performed and the second written specifically for them. The title comes from the old sailor’s adage: “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; red sky at night, sailors delight.” The notion is one of an impending storm rolling in, as foretold by the sunrise. The previous piece I wrote for LBS, “…the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind” was one in which I explored the relationship between the sea as we perceive it and the way it tends to control our mind and mood. After all, what is more relaxing than to sit by the water’s edge and watch the waves roll in and out? In Red Sky at Morning, it has the opposite effect. Rather than lull us into a daydream, it is a call to prepare. I have always loved the tradition of ‘water’ pieces, whether all the way back to Handel’s Water Music to the piano music depicting fountains by Liszt, Ravel and Griffes, to the sea depictions of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Debussy’s La Mer, or Britten’s Sea Interludes. In Red Sky, one can imagine a feeling of a quickening breeze and choppier waves. A buildup to a calmer sunrise follows, but is short-lived; the motives of the wind and waves intensifies and eventually peaks. Of course, that is only one way to listen to this piece—I am a big believer that everyone should listen to their music in a way that is meaningful to them, and therefore there are no ‘wrong’ ways to feel a piece of music. Paradoxically, music is perhaps the most abstract of the arts. It is the language of emotions, our interior world, more than a precise depiction of the world around us. I have written pieces that stay in that abstract world, but more often than not I try to make some extra-musical associations in order to link to things we can perceive or share better. In a way, the choice of associations can be somewhat arbitrary. If I told you this piece is about roller skating or the path of a skier going down a mountain, a listener can be drawn in that direction just as easily. So, while the ‘program’ may seem to fit once one hears the work, it is not the only way to hear this and the association with nature, however intentioned, can be arbitrary.
The other inspiration for the piece is to honor the memory of Christopher Rouse, a Pulitzer Prize winning composer who passed away a few years ago. Chris was a mentor to me from the time I was an undergraduate at Cornell while he was working on his doctorate. He opened my ears to a great many things and gave me license to follow my own voice rather than try to make my music resemble everybody else’s. A few years later he was on the faculty at Eastman while I was working on my doctorate, and I copied music for him for several years. Chris had a sly habit of making obscure references in his pieces to many other works, most of which were unknown to virtually all the listeners. He would be smiling at the references I made in Red Sky to some of his pieces. Lord knows, after the many hours I spent copying out orchestra parts for him, I can say I am quite familiar with his works!
Nature is a common theme woven into the pieces of our last Masterworks concert. Why do you feel artists and musicians so often pull inspiration from nature to incorporate into their various pieces? Did you feel that similar sort of pull when writing Red Sky?
The simple answer is that nature is an inescapable part of the human experience. It is both all around us all the time as well as inside each of us. I think nature is both familiar and overwhelming to all of humanity regardless of culture and location. Every time we think we have conquered nature, it has a way of reminding us that at best we can live with it but not control it. Every belief system, whether the polytheistic religions’ notion of different gods controlling various aspects of nature, the monotheistic concept of a single God who created and orders all, or the notion of nature as a force whose origins and purposes are unknown to us, has tried to explain why things are the way they are. All art offers examples of what it means to be human and music is no exception. Therefore, it is ‘natural’ (pardon the pun!) to both depict nature and portray our own feelings in our interactions with the world around us.
As for Red Sky at Morning, on one level it evokes images of one of our interactions with nature. But it can also be taken as a kind of warning that changes in the world around us must affect how we live and hopefully persist. One doesn’t have to engage in the debate as to whether climate change is caused by human behavior to realize that it is us who must adapt; nature will do what it does.
You have been a long-time patron and supporter of the symphony. As we round out our 35thanniversary season, how have you seen the symphony change over the years? What has been your favorite Long Bay Symphony experience so far?
The symphony orchestra in America has always struggled to find its true role in society. If it is only an emblem of the elites of our society, then there will be difficulties drawing audiences in sufficient numbers to be economically viable and relevant to our culture. Therefore, it cannot be merely a curator of European Art Music. We always have an opportunity to redefine what the orchestra is to us, and this goes on in every community across the country.
I have greatly appreciated the efforts of my friend, Maestro Charles Evans, to program new or unusual works alongside the accepted classics. He knows it is difficult to ask an audience to ‘try a new dish’ rather than exist on a diet of only comfort food, but in an era in which one can listen to virtually anything at any time for minimal expense, the local symphony cannot try to merely duplicate an experience one can get anywhere else. I believe the goal is to send the audience home somehow different or transformed from where they were when they entered. And the LBS has largely succeeded with each concert. I don’t know if I can single out a particular concert or experience that stands out above the others. Rather, the fact that we are able to hear 60 or so musicians who have devoted their lives to touching us with their music making led by a master architect giving us a range of musical expression all in an afternoon is nothing short of a miracle.
In the 15 years that I have lived in Myrtle Beach I have seen the versatility of the LBS as it presents a wide variety of music, from pop to Broadway to the classics. There is a movement afoot here and across the country to present new voices, and this is appropriate. When people of a future date look back at our society, when they examine our programs, listen to our recordings, assess the range of expression, it would be awful if all they found was a repetition of 18th and 19th century pieces, as though we had nothing to say for ourselves.
Having been on the LBS board for ten years, I understand how vital yet how precarious this orchestra is. The community must find a way to continue to support it, because there is nothing else like the live orchestra experience. I don’t know where the orchestra will take us in the next decades, but one way or another we need to keep it going.
We hope to see each and every one of you at The Planets on April 16th as we end our 35th Anniversary Season in the best way we know how to: celebrating the classic and wholly embracing the new.
We hope you enjoyed our third Masterworks concert on January 29th! Continue reading below for William (Bill) Hamilton's review, which will be posted in the e-edition of the Myrtle Beach Herald later this month:
The Orchestra Tells Stories | By William Hamilton
Sunday January 29 was the third of the Long Bay Symphony Orchestra’s masterworks concerts, entitled “Storytellers: Preserving Traditions” and the music and its composers is a story in itself. This concert featured music from two 20th century composers, two 21st century composers, and only one composer from the more traditional 19th century time period. And, the general story line was love in more than one guise.
The afternoon began with 20th century composer Manuel de Falla’s Suite No. 1 from his ballet The Three Cornered Hat dating from 1919. Program annotator Dr. Richard Rodda’s notes tell us this work “…concerns a village miller and his pretty wife. The Corregidor (mayor) is attracted to the miller’s wife and makes his advances.” This work was conducted by Nyamka Odsuren , a member of the orchestra’s violin section. He skillfully brought out the appealing and attractive rhythms and melodies of de Falla’s music, both in ensemble passages and solo lines, as the now-familiar story of an authority figure making passes at someone’s wife proceeded.
The second 20th century composer was the more familiar Igor Stravinsky, with an early work, from 1907, The Faun and the Shepherdess, for Mezzo-Soprano and Orchestra. Dr. Charles Evans returned to the podium, and the featured soloist was Jennifer Luiken, who has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina, and who is Professor of Music at Charleston Southern University. Dr. Richard Rodda tells us that the text was “…from a long erotic poem that Alexander Pushkin wrote when he was 17. The faun of the title was no Bambi-like creature…but rather…a half-man, half beast…whose chief characteristic is a highly developed libido.” Luiken sang the text in Russian, and her mesmerizing physical presence and beautiful voice completely projected the sense of this early 20th century work.
The first half of the program concluded with Evans directing the orchestra in Jennifer Higdon’s Suite from her opera Cold Mountain – the suite dating from 2022. Higdon, born in1962 in Brooklyn, New York, based her opera on “…Charles Frazier’s award-winning novel…” and “… tells the story of a Confederate soldier during the Civil War…who… deserts the army …” and returns to his wife. Higdon skillfully combines dissonant, lively passages with slower, lyrical and emotionally engaging ones, and listeners can hear why she has received “…three Grammies, a Pulitzer Prize, and induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. “ She received a doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania, and is presently on the faculty of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
Meira Warshauer’s Ahavah for Mezzo-Soprano, Chorus and Orchestra began the second half of the concert, and featured Jennifer Luiken, along with the Carolina Master Chorale and vocal ensemble group Bassic Tenacity conducted by Dr. Timothy Koch as well as the Calliope Chorus conducted by Dr. Alyssa Cosey. Warshauer has strong ties to this region, having been born in Wilmington NC and holding a Doctorate in music composition from the University of South Carolina, The title of this splendid work means “Love” and Warshauer tells of how she literally embraced the trunk of a tree on the campus of Bryn Mawr College and “…heard a simple chant on the Hebrew word for love, ahavah…later I realized this message was from all of the trees, from all of creation…” .
Luiken’s singing was again superb, as was the choral work from Koch and Cossey. Evans and the LBS blended, supported, or prevailed, as the music required, and the work ended with a quiet, calming fade away to silence, after which the audience was on its feet with applause and cheers.
The final work of the concert was Wagner’s “Siegfried’s Rhine Journey”, for orchestra alone, and Evans and the LBS brought the afternoon to a rich, fulfilling close with wonderful solo work and ensemble playing in this traditional 19th century work.
William Hamilton taught music at Coastal Carolina University for 28 years. He wrote the music for CCU’s Alma Mater, wrote incidental music for some plays, and occasionally plays jazz with The Jazz Standard.
Our next Masterworks concert is right around the corner, so we wanted to share with you all some tidbits of deeper insight into two pieces we are so excited to perform: Jennifer Higdon’s Cold Mountain Suite and Meira Warshauer’s Ahavah (Love).
The Long Bay Symphony will be one of 37 symphonies—and one of two in South Carolina—performing Jennifer Higdon’s latest world premiere, Cold Mountain Suite. Debuting as Higdon’s first opera in 2015, Cold Mountain is based on the book of the same name by Charles Frazier, which was also adapted as a movie in 2003 staring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Set during the American Civil War era, the story unfolds as a Confederate soldier, W.P. Inman, deserts the army after being wounded and sets off on a dangerous journey home to return to his wife, Ada Monroe. Higdon’s opera was nominated for two Grammy awards and received the International Opera Award for Best New Opera. Since then, she has successfully compiled the orchestral pieces from the opera into the Cold Mountain Suite, which we will perform on January 29th at our Storytellers: Preserving Traditions Masterworks installment.
According to the League of American Orchestras, Higdon is one of the most frequently performed contemporary composers today. She won a Pulitzer Prize for her Violin Concerto as well as three Grammys. She has several highly popular compositions in her repertoire, including blue cathedral, a piece commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music and partly inspired by the death of her brother which occurred around the same time (*A little trinket of LBS trivia: we performed this piece at our Pictures at an Exhibition Masterworks concert back in the 2019-2020 season*).
In continuing our intentional efforts to include more and more beautifully talented, modern, women composers, we will also be featuring Meira Warshauer’s Ahavah (Love). Warshauer shares her thoughts on the process of composing Ahavah on her website (linked below). The inspiration for the piece came during a Jewish Renewal retreat on the campus Bryn Mawr College by way of a beech tree. Overwhelmed by a sense of both admiration for and obligation to our beautiful earth, Warshauer composed this piece as both a love letter to our home here and a call to arms to protect it.
Warshauer is actually a native of Wilmington, North Carolina and graduated with degrees from Harvard University, the New England Conservatory, and the University of South Carolina, where she received her DMA (go Gamecocks!). We’re thrilled to include a piece by a Carolina local and are even more excited that she’ll be able to attend the concert on the 29th to hear her piece played.
There is still time to save your seats! Head over to our schedule page to purchase tickets or give our office a call!
2022 will be the third year of putting on our Veterans Weekend concert, War & Peace. According to statistics for the years 2016-2020 provided on the US Census Bureau website, 28,472 veterans live in Horry County, South Carolina. This equates to close to eight percent of our overall population. The idea of for War & Peace was born from the desire to reach the veterans in our community and provide them with a performance that honors their time served.
Long-time LBS patron and supporter, Joanne Milnor, first came up with the idea for a War & Peace concert a few years ago after she attended a League of American Orchestras conference as a member of the symphony’s Board of Directors. One workshop that stood out to her involved the idea of Audience Development. The workshop leader asked the attendees who in their communities could be better served by the work of symphony. Joanne immediately thought of the veteran population living along the Grand Strand. This was the seed that ultimately grew into the War & Peace concert series that we put on today.
I asked Joanne what songs she had in mind when she envisioned this concert taking place. “My mind was flooded with possible songs to be included in the concert program,” she said. “I started with songs like Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, then Battle Hymn of the Republic—my senior class song in high school—and songs from the Andrew Sisters during the WWII period. Pretty much every war has songs associated with the conflict. Charles has done a great job including songs from many wars and conflicts across our history, and each year has inspired us with his selections. Adding to that, the ‘presentation of the colors’ by our local VFWs has been inspiring.”
We’ve seen countless veterans and their families as well as people from the general public attend the various performances for this concert series. Undoubtedly, every year, it is such a special scene to witness so many patrons singing along to America’s most famous songs and waving American flags to the rhythm of the pieces played. This concert provides a way for us to connect to the history of our country as well as pay tribute to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving it.
“There is music that defines every era of history and every country/civilization or world power,” she said. “Music provides a sense of nationalism and identity.”
To read more about Joanne’s thoughts on growing up during the era of World War II, please follow the link to an article she wrote for Grand Strand Magazine in 2019: https://grandstrandmag.com/feature/memories_of_world_war_ii_through_the_eyes_of_a_child
We hope to see you this weekend at one (or all) of our War & Peace performances. Remember, admission is $10 for the general public and completely free for veterans!
First United Methodist Church in Conway, SC – November 12 at 3:00PM
First Presbyterian Church in Myrtle Beach, SC – November 13 at 2:00PM
Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach, SC – November 13 at 6:00PM
As you all now know, our 35th Anniversary season is titled “The Universal Language.” We are hoping our performances throughout this season speak to how music can connect people across different backgrounds and experiences. Within the same vein, our second Masterworks installment is titled “Native Voices.” It is comprised of pieces by composers whose work speaks to their roots, heritages, and homelands. It’s important to acknowledge how music connects us all but also respect how we as people use music to share our own individual perspectives, cultures, and histories.
I’ve been spending time with the idea that music means something different to each person. This is, perhaps, an obvious notion that we all consider to be true about most things, not just music, but it can be contemplated on a deeper level. Music means something different to all of us because we, as people, create the music we listen to, and we, as people, are all different. We often think of “music” as a concept: it is a compilation of sounds we listen to when we feel sad, happy, mad, or don’t know what to feel at all. I want to take a moment to think of music not on the level of a figurative concept, but rather as a literal, living, collective body made up of the individual people who create it.
We are connected by many things. Music is just one of them. It is because people have been called to use music as a form of expression that we are then granted the opportunity to receive, experience, and understand a different perspective from our own. What a beautiful thing to be connected by: these forms of expression that may be and sound totally different from one another, but allow us the same outlet to create, emote, feel, and be.
Our guest conductor for Native Voices, Dr. David Rudge, shared with me some of his personal thoughts on how music connects us to one another:
As a conductor who has traveled all over the world, how have you found that classical music can act as a binding agent across cultures, backgrounds, countries, etc.?
Music, especially when made in large groups can definitely be a bonding experience. It’s great to see more diversity in the personnel and repertoire of US orchestras, but this was even more apparent when I was a guest conductor in Syria. That orchestra was comprised of Syrians, Armenians and Russians; of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Holy days being Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there were challenges with scheduling weekend rehearsals, but in the end, our mutual love and dedication to Western classical orchestra music brought us all together. In addition, as Cultural Ambassador of the State Department, I programmed all American music, most of which had never been played there, and they loved it. And on my last night there the orchestra threw a big party for me, which ended with folk dancing in a circle, the musicians being led by the young principal clarinetist, who is now part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad Ensemble. This is just one example of how music can bring us all together.
Do you feel that conducting is a form of expression for you personally? How did you find yourself being drawn to this profession in particular?
I feel that my job is to express what the composer wanted when writing the piece. This takes a lot of study and humility to arrive at an understand of what thinks the composer’s intentions were. That said, being human, we all convey our own personality and feelings when making music.
I’ve always been drawn to conducting for reasons I cannot explain. When in school my chamber music coaches commented that I had a talent for bringing a group together. However, my favorite version of this trait came from what kindergarten teacher told my mother. “This boy will either be a leader or a comedian.” I’m still working on the comedian part. . .
What does music, classical or otherwise, mean to you?
Music of all kinds is a vehicle for self-expression and deep communication. Classical music can do this in a profound way, but there as many kinds of musical expression as there are people. For instance, one of my interests for many years has been the medium of free improvisation. This art form, which has almost died out in the classical world is not only alive in jazz, but in most other cultures around the world. I’ve been teaching this for years, and it’s been amazing to watch people become more expressive when placed in an environment of non-judgement and acceptance.
We hope to see you this afternoon at our Native Voices performance. Sunday, November 6th at 4:00PM (don’t forget: we “fell back” an hour this weekend!) at the MBHS Music & Arts Center.
Dr. Philip Powell is a professional pianist, a Professor of Music at Coastal Carolina University since 1988, and our guest artist for the second installment of our 35th Anniversary Masterworks series. Dr. Powell has performed as a soloist with the Long Bay Symphony many times in the past, and we’re greatly looking forward to hearing him perform during Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on November 6th. In the weeks leading up to our second Masterworks concert, we wanted to share with our patrons a little more about Dr. Powell and his thoughts on the future of the arts community in Myrtle Beach as well as what the future generation of musicians have to look forward as they decide to pursue music as a career.
Q&A with Dr. Philip Powell
You’ve been a part of the music “scene,” if you will, in Myrtle Beach for quite some time now. How have you seen it change over the decades and what kind of direction do you see us heading in, in terms of the increasing culture and arts in our community, in the years to come?
I have been at Coastal Carolina University (and in the Myrtle Beach area) since 1988. It is hard to believe what it used to be like here back then! It really was a very sleepy town for about nine months out of the year - I used to joke that you could have a picnic lunch in the middle of Kings Hwy in September and never see a car! It is not like that anymore! While this area has always been fortunate to attract some amazing and talented people to live here, and that was the case even in 1988, the Long Bay Symphony started as a volunteer group of locals with a wide range of background and experience. I was fortunate to play a piano concerto, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #1 in C with the Long Bay Symphony on their second concert that they had EVER given and let me tell you, it was a wild ride! We performed in Wheelwright Auditorium, (at CCU) and what we lacked in polish, the audience made up for it with enthusiasm for “our own local symphony!” That enthusiasm and support has only grown over these past 30+ years.
I hope that we are able to realize the vision for an inclusive Performing Arts Center that will service all of Horry County and our surrounding region. It would be incredible to have a facility that is acoustically excellent, with all the supporting space necessary for music of all types (symphonic, chamber, choral, etc.), theatre, and maybe even with an art gallery - This could be a transformational facility for our area.
As a sort of follow up to the previous question, you’ve played with the Long Bay Symphony many times before. Would you be willing to speak to how you’ve seen the organization as a whole change throughout our 35 years of existence as a source of quality music in the MB community?
Well, I think I touched on some of this in my first response, but I can specifically point to Charles Evans as a driving force to make the orchestra and entire organization a more professional and polished musical ensemble. The original volunteer model was a beautiful start and a great way to develop real 'grass roots' support, but it proved to be unsustainable in terms of increasing musical and artistic demands. As the community enthusiasm for the Symphony grew, so did the expectation of artistic excellence. Charles has managed that balancing act well. I am really looking forward to playing a big romantic Concerto with the Orchestra next week - it is always fun to collaborate with my many friends in the ensemble!
In a society that puts a great emphasis on STEM professions, there is, of course, still plenty of room and necessity for people who desire pursuing careers in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts. As both a professional musician and a professor of music at one of the main universities in our Grand Strand community, what would you say to the younger generations of musicians who aspire to make music a part of their career?
It is so common for people to say 'Music is so competitive, you will never be able to make a living.' To that, I say, EVERY profession (even the STEM professions) is competitive! Part of the problem is we have a bizarre definition of 'success' in music. I think many well-meaning friends and family are trying to give career advice within the framework of success meaning 'international performing career.' While that is ONE definition of success, just like any other profession, success in the arts is more nuanced and multi-faceted. I would give the practical advice to PRACTICE and learn to love honing your craft!
That said, I have LOVED my life as a performer, teacher, and arts advocate here in the Grand Strand - being able to be a part of such growth and development in the Community and the University has been both exciting and rewarding, and I am thankful for all the many talented and enthusiastic people I have had the pleasure to work with. Here's to 30 more years!!!
To hear Dr. Powell perform alongside the Long Bay Symphony, join us on November 6th at the MBHS Music & Arts Center for Native Voices. Tickets are still available online and can also be purchased at the door!