The “Made in America” kickoff concert on Sunday for Long Bay Symphony’s 26th season – “Music That Inspires!” – will bring back – and make new – memories for two main players.
The orchestra, performing at 4 p.m. in Myrtle Beach High School’s auditorium, will unite on stage two longtime colleagues: Charles Jones Evans, Long Bay’s music director and conductor, and Philip Powell, Coastal Carolina University’s music department chairman, as guest artist on piano.
Evans said Powell played Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” 18 years ago at the very first concert he took the baton for the symphony and that he was happy to have Powell, an occasional Long Bay guest, involved for this event on Sunday to showcase “American symphonic tradition” and reprise this masterpiece.
Through this concert – also with Charles Ives’ Variations on “America,” William Schuman’s “New England Triptych,” Samuel Barber’s “First Essay” and Aaron Copland’s “Buckaroo Holiday” from “Rodeo,” – Evans said it “sort of frames the early 20th century” in music from U.S.-born composers, with some well-known works.
“This is when American music was getting its own voice,” Evans said, speaking of classical music on a global scale.
Evans said people might be surprised they know most, if not all, music from the concert this weekend, and that they stand on their own as “a great body of works.”
Powell, who also remembered tapping the ivories in Long Bay’s second concert ever, 26 years ago in November, said Evans excels in “putting balanced programs together that are consistently interesting and challenging for the audience and musicians.”
This concert on Sunday highlights some “classic American music,” Powell said, including the “iconic” Gershwin, whose “Concerto in F” captivated him in high school.
He said Gershwin, a musical “genius” who had little formal training, took the commission to write the number and “became this good student,” researching how to write a piano concerto.
“He came up with this formula,” Powell said, “that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Franz Liszt would’ve been proud of.”
The concerto, in its final movement, also reflects a “thematic transformation” from the first two movements, a method Gershwin used in all his works, Powell said.
He called any dismissive feelings people through the decades have had of Gershwin as “a tin pan alley composer” as “a shame,” because he “really influenced Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel,” the latter with whom Gershwin studied composition in Paris.
Powell also wondered how special a setting Los Angeles provided Gershwin, with European-born neighbors such as Sergei Rachmaninoff and Arnold Schoenberg.
“I just can’t imagine what that dynamic must have been like,” Powell said.
Another “odd aspect” he brought up about Gershwin was “he was always working on legitimatizing himself,” but those feelings helped result in his crafting the music for the opera “Porgy and Bess,” for which Ira Gershwin, George Gershwin’s brother, helped write the lyrics.
Various special guests
Sharing some snippets of the whole, loaded Long Bay season ahead, Evans said “The German Romantic Spirit,” on Nov. 3, fulfills another of his trademark annual “meat and potatoes” concerts.
“This one is simply standard repertoire,” Evans said, “what most people would consider representative of standard classical music.”
This night will include Brahms’ “Double Concerto,” for violin and cello, which he called a fun piece not heard as often because of two soloists in this, so Long Bay will welcome two sisters, Madalyn and Cicely Parnas, on violin and cello.
Guest performers will join Long Bay for “Musical Narrative” Jan. 19 – the Carolina Master Chorale and CCU’s Jeffrey Jones, baritone – and for “An Evening at the Opera” March 9, with Kirstin Chávez, mezzo-soprano, who shared the stage with the Chorale earlier this year, and Litchfield Ballet Company of Litchfield Beach.
Evans said the latter really will resemble a night of opera, “with all those musical and dance features.”
Having other stars complement the orchestra, Evans said, “you have a force, somebody who can sell the program.”
Long Bay’s chamber orchestra will play its two programs – “Musical Classics for the Holiday Season” Dec. 7-8, and “Going for Baroque, May 17-18 – each in two places.
‘Pilot’ from Disney night
Also, having a summer performance this year, “Disney in Concert” became a pilot, Evans said, for a pop series within the 2013-14 season: Chris Mann on Oct. 19 and “An Evening of Motown” April 5.
Amid Motown’s revival with a play on Broadway, he said that era in music history “was back in the day when everything was acoustic,” but with the “ground material already there” in its singing, writing and strings, for adapting it for an orchestra and staying “true to the program.”
The Long Bay Youth Orchestra, whose first of three seasonal concerts, “Music Through the Ages,” doesn’t happen until Nov. 21, already has begun its weekly rehearsals, Evans said. This concert will include a percussion concerto, and the members, from age 12 to three CCU students, but mostly high- and middle schoolers, “just love it,” he said.
Powell said such ensembles as Long Bay, the Carolina Master Chorale and other local arts groups all love to give the community all kinds of music, maybe something that folks haven’t heard in a while or for their first time, all to remind them how great classical music sounds.
“I love the fact that all these organizations recognize this is a team effort,” Powell said.
Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.