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!

People’s paths cross every day in so many different ways. On the way to work. At the coffee shop. Scrolling through posts on our social media channels. Even now, my path has crossed with yours as you decided to read this blog post. Some of these crossings are just that: fleeting moments of acknowledgement as we carry on about our days. Others initiate a sense of abiding lastingness, and, doubtlessly, they do so for a reason. One of the pieces that will be performed in our upcoming Masterworks concert, Native Voices, is a result of this kind of path-crossing.

Armenian Suite, the third piece that will be performed on November 6th, was written and composed by Richard Yardumian. Yardumian was born in Pennsylvania in 1917. He wrote six of the seven movements of Armenian Suite, a distinct nod to his Armenian heritage, at the age of nineteen. In 1954, when he was in his mid-thirties, the seventh movement was added at the request of Eugene Ormandy. Yardumian composed many pieces in addition to Armenian Suite, most of which were premiered and performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Beyond his musical career, Yardumian was a WWII veteran, the music director for a church in his hometown of Bryn Athyn, a husband, and a father of thirteen children. This is where we get to the path-crossing part…The ninth of his children, Esther Yardumian-Smyth, just so happens to live right here in the Grand Strand.

LBS Honorary Lifetime Director and former board president, Ray Heider, met Esther one evening by happenstance in their neighborhood in Pawleys Island. After conversing about their shared interest in classical music and Esther’s patronage as a season subscriber at the Long Bay Symphony, Esther mentioned her father’s work as a composer. After spending the evening listening to Yardumian’s work, Ray brought the connection between Richard Yardumian, Esther, and the Long Bay Symphony to our maestro, Dr. Charles Evans, who was, of course, familiar with Yardumian’s compositions. Since then, we have been excited to incorporate one of Yardumian’s pieces into our Masterworks programming. What better piece to include in Native Voices, a presentation of pieces from composers who were influenced by their heritages, than Yardumian’s Armenian Suite?

To hear more from Esther about her experiences growing up and how she came to the Grand Strand, follow the link here to listen to an interview conducted by Dr. Evans: https://youtu.be/WM7t2eQzafQ.

(The photos below are graciously provided by Esther Yardumian-Smyth)

   

([Top:] Anshel Brusilow, Eugene Ormandy, and Richard Yardumain with the Yardumian Violin Concerto; [Left] Richard Yardumian, pianist Rudolf Firkusny, and Eugene Ormandy going over the RY Piano Concerto; [Right:] Richard Yardumian bowing after the playing of the Yardumian Violin Concerto)

Patrons attending our first Masterworks concert on September 25th will not only enjoy performances by the Long Bay Symphony led by Maestro Charles Jones Evans, but will also get to witness Ms. Grace Roepke perform her craft: the harp. Our first guest artist of the season hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. After graduating with both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music, she currently studies under the instruction of Yolanda Kondonassis, a Grammy-nominated harpist, as a recipient of the CIM Orchestral Career Fellowship[1]. Ms. Roepke is the recipient of many awards and honors, including top prizes from the American Harp Society National Competition, the Dutch Harp Festival World Harp Competition, and the Cleveland Institute of Music Concerto Competition[2]. In addition to all of these things, she is also a music educator with her own private studio and an advocate for people with autism. It is plenty safe to say that we are very lucky to have her on the stage for the first concert of our 35th Anniversary season.

Q&A:

At what age did you begin playing the harp, and what made you choose this instrument?

I began playing the harp when I was six years old. My grandmother is a harpist and I'm her only granddaughter, so when I was born, she brought her troubadour harp over to my parents’ house. Every year they would ask if I wanted lessons, and one year I finally said yes!

What has been your most impactful memory associated with your journey in learning your instrument?

This is such a great question, and I feel so lucky to have so many memories to choose from! One that comes to mind is the first harp recital I attended, and being completely entranced by the student performing. I remember turning to my mom and saying, "I want to play that piece!" and she responded with "Well, then you need to practice." After a few years of lessons and many hours of practicing, I still remember finally getting to learn the piece that student played and feeling an abundance of pride that my hard work had paid off.

Our first masterworks installment is titled “Trailblazers: From Beethoven to Borodin & Beyond;” the idea behind this concert is to highlight composers who ventured beyond the conventions of their time (i.e. Beethoven, Ginastera, Joan Tower, etc.). In your opinion, what is the value in venturing beyond what is socially popular or “trendy” versus staying in the vein of what you know?

There is so much to be gained as both a performer and listener by venturing beyond what is familiar to us! In my opinion, life would be so boring if we performed and listened to the same handful of pieces. The abundance of repertoire we have written for us is astounding, and it is always so exciting as a performer to delve into unfamiliar works and explore the ideas of different composers. As an audience member, I can't think of anything more exciting than listening to a piece you've never heard before! It always amazes me how different composers can make the same ensemble sound completely unique. Between the works of Beethoven, Ginastera, and Tower, I know audience members will feel this same sense of awe when attending the Long Bay Symphony Concert on September 25th!

 

To learn more about Ms. Roepke, be sure to check out her website at https://www.graceroepke.com! We will see you at the symphony soon!

References:

[1] Yolanda Kondonassis, accessed September 14, 2022, https://www.yolandaharp.com.

[2] Grace Roepke, accessed September 14, 2022, https://www.graceroepke.com/about.

In 1894, psychologist Havelock Ellis asserted in his study titled Man & Woman that women were less likely to have success as composers because genius manifested more naturally in men[1]. Of course, now, we know that this is far from true. Female composers are both accepted and successful in the world of classical music today, but that has not always been the case. Contrary to the once long-standing opinion that women had little to no involvement in the composition of classical music, they have, in fact, been composing and contributing to the genre dating back to its roots. Matthew Johnson writes in “The Recognition of Female Composers” that the ignorance of the existence of work by female composers has always been due to a lack of awareness, not a lack of presence[2].

As we commence our 35th anniversary season, “The Universal Language,” we hope to spotlight the work of composers that speak to the theme of connecting people through the universal language of music. The inclusion of Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 6 in our first Masterworks concert of the 2022-2023 season is a distinctly pointed nod to the contributions women have gifted to the classical music genre in terms of composing. Tower has been a trailblazer for female composers for decades; she has won countless awards for her compositions, including the prestigious Grawemeyer Award and multiple Grammy awards, and regularly teaches the future generation of composers at Bard University. Being an icon for the women in the world of classical music, Tower has naturally been approached by many people regarding her craft, her process, and her thoughts on women in the classical music genre. As pointed out by Elizabeth McGuire, executive director for the Colorado Music Festival, Tower is known for “embracing the female perspective” in her work, and contributes part of this perspective to deeply knowing the history of female composers[3].

Her Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman were composed almost as though a counterpart to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, and have become situated as staples in the repertoire of many symphony orchestras across the world[4]. There are six in total, and each are dedicated to important female music figures; in her own words, Tower describes them as being written for “women who take risks and are adventurous”.[5] No. 6, commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony for orchestra in 2014, is said to be dedicated to Tania Leon, a highly honored, female, Cuban-American composer.[6]

Now, at 84 years old, Tower’s influence on both composition and classical music is solidified into the history of the genre itself. In a narrative that once omitted all existence of female influence, she has and will continue to make her presence known for the generations to come. As Alex Ross, contributor for The New Yorker, wrote, “No concert series would suffer a loss of quality if more of [women’s] work was included. To the contrary, any institution that made a habit of spotlighting women would, by default, become a livelier place”.[7]

References:

[1] Eugene Gates, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Composers? Psychological Theories, Past and Present,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 28, no. 2 (1994): 27–34.

[2] Matthew S. Johnson, “The Recognition of Female Composers,” Ágora, (2005): 9.

[3] “Elizabeth McGuire Interviews Composer Joan Tower,” Colorado Music Festival, October 27, 2020, https://coloradomusicfestival.org/elizabeth-mcguire-interviews-composer-joan-tower/.

[4] Henry Michaels, “Program Note – Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman,” Resonance (blog), Music Academy, August 7, 2021, https://musicacademy.org/resonance-08-07-2021-tower/.

[5] Michaels, “Program Note – Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”

[6]"Fare for the Uncommon Woman," Your Classical, October 10, 2019, https://www.loc.gov/static/programs/national-recording-preservation-board/documents/FanfaresForTheUncommonWoman.pdf.

[7] Alex Ross, “Even the Score,” The New Yorker, April 22, 2103, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/04/29/even-the-score.

As we ended our 34th season in April of 2022, symphony staff and board members began thinking about how best to celebrate 35 years of providing cultural experiences surrounding classical music to the Grand Strand community. Anniversary seasons speak to the longevity, impact, and endurance of an organization. In recalling our 35 years of playing music for patrons from all over the country and other parts of the world, the question begged itself: given our rooted history, what are we known for, and what do we want to be known for moving forward?

We titled our 35th anniversary season “The Universal Language” as we hope to continue to connect our community through the universal language that is music. The Grand Strand is not only a home to many but also known for drawing a diverse demographic in terms of tourism. Because of this, it is imperative to maintain and encourage the highest level of inclusivity as well as present innovative experiences of orchestral music. In a world that is ever-evolving and ever-advancing, symphony orchestras, while rooted in the classic eras of history, are not exempt from correspondingly evolving and advancing. This is what we hope to embrace and implement in our 35th season and seasons to come.

In the first installment of our 2022-2023 Masterworks series, Trailblazers: From Beethoven to Borodin & Beyond, we encompass the idea of moving through the various eras of classical music. From the legendary Ludwig van Beethoven to the symphony of Alexander Borodin to the 20th century sounds of Alberto Ginastera and Joan Tower, audience members will experience the music of those who succeeded in venturing beyond the conventions of their time. This movement through the eras could serve as a mirror to the chronicles of the Long Bay Symphony, as we are deeply rooted in the history of the Grand Strand communities and have moved forward fluidly as the world of symphonic music changed and continues to change beautifully with the times.

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