Reviewed: Storytellers: Preserving Traditions

Date: February 1, 2023
Author: Susan Abercrombie

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.

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