We've got a thorough look into Stephen King's The Dark Tower adaptation from four-time podcast guest, Steve Weiser! Consider this your one-stop-shop for learning all you need before going to see the movie. All questions will be answered...
Steve also joins us to discuss the exciting 2017-2018 season for the Erie Philharmonic, where he serves as executive director (and, oddly enough, resident Skyrim player). We also discuss the upcoming Beat Beethoven 5K, which includes a free concert this year along with a street fair full of food trucks, local vendors and more!
We'll also discuss a patent for oatmeal cereal, Cursed Child Broadway casting, Henry Cavill's Mustachegate, and Patrick's real plot for The Dark Tower.
Archive recording of the Philharmonic from November 26, 1957
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
With summertime comes the chance to reflect on what has happened over the course of the past year and take some extra time to plan for the future. I usually use the summer months to read new scores, look into artists I might like to bring to the Philharmonic, plan for future seasons and set my goals for the coming year. I also program the holiday concerts, which is particularly hard to do when the weather is so warm, but with the extra few moments I have to look into a new arrangement or think about how the program might take shape, it's easier to create and imagine the experience away from the hustle-and-bustle of the concert season.
Another great part of the summer is to take stock of how far we’ve come together as an orchestra. To think back on this past season is truly energizing. I felt the Erie Philharmonic has hit its stride in so many facets, from assembling a super team in the office, to developing a wonderful new educational outreach program, to performing memorable works on the Warner stage that have inspired our musicians to reach a new level of excellence and depth of music-making. My particular favorites include one week with one of the world’s most celebrated pianists in Emanuel Ax, bold and committed performances of Sibelius’ Second and Mahler’s Fourth Symphonies, a brilliant Glazunov Concerto with our own Ken Johnston, a sold-out family-friendly pops concert with Jenny Oaks Baker, and a searing Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem with the voices of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus and soloists from the Pittsburgh Opera. And of course that’s just to name a few highlights in a season loaded with special memories!
Speaking of special memories, would you please join me in celebrating the season and launching our next by attending our special season-ending CODA event at the Erie Art Museum? Formerly known as UNPLUGGED, CODA is our chance to celebrate great music and great music-making. We have invited two of the young stars who will be gracing our stage for the first time this fall in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. They are cellist Nick Canellakis and pianist Michael Brown, and you will get the chance to meet them and hear them in an intimate setting on Friday, June 30 at the Erie Art Museum. They will perform together in the acoustically-friendly recital space at the museum while we mix, mingle, and toast the end of a grand 2016-17 season and the beginning of what should prove to be an even grander 2017-18 concert season with the Erie Philharmonic.
I hope to see you there, and I hope you will share a special memory of the season with me.
Music Director, Erie Philharmonic
Written by Laura Scanlan
Pennsylvania's Erie Philharmonic Brings Harmony to Its Community
Erie, located at the far northwest tip of Pennsylvania on the southern shore of Lake Erie, is the fourth-largest city in the state with a population of roughly 100,000. In its heyday, Erie was home to large manufacturing companies and robust steel and coal factories, which have since relocated, and served as a hub for the westward expansion of rail and maritime commerce. The population has declined in recent years, and Erie’s economy now includes a diverse mix of mid-size industries and a service sector that comprises health, insurance, and tourism-based businesses.
Despite the downward shifts in population and economic output, there is something special going on in the cultural sector that’s breathing new life into the town of Erie. This is happening through the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and Erie Arts & Culture, which is a member of PCA’s network of more than 30 regional partners around the states, as well as with support from the NEA.
“The arts and culture sector is an important asset in the changing economy of Erie,” said Amanda Sissem, executive director of Erie Arts & Culture, the oldest arts council in Pennsylvania. “We’ve been losing population, and our gains are in new immigrants and refugee communities, which bring great treasures to this community that are sometimes overlooked. Our cultural organizations are helping people find hope and inspiration. We’re a big part of the future of this place, and we’re also a part of making sure that we honor our past and our people.”
Since 1960, Erie Arts & Culture has operated as a backbone organization for the region, helping to support the arts and culture sector and helping the area achieve community-wide goals by embracing arts and culture strategies. As one of the PCA’s regional partners, they do this in part by administering grant programs designed by the PCA. Beyond grantmaking, Erie Arts & Culture works with the community and its six major arts organizational partners to determine the high-priority goals for which arts and culture can help move the needle. Sissem explained, “We develop a shared agenda to enhance the community and bolster the cultural sector. Our six arts and culture partnering organizations sign a three-year agreement to help focus on the big needs in Erie and, in turn, we support their achievements by providing operating funds.” Cultural institutions are currently addressing community needs such as growing the tourism economy, increasing programming in schools, and increasing access and participation in the arts.
The Erie Philharmonic is one of the six partner organizations operating on all cylinders and achieving results, according to Sissem. Performing in the historic Warner Theatre that serves as an anchor to downtown Erie, the philharmonic has the popularity and capacity to sell out its 2,200-seat venue for consecutive performances, “even on hockey nights,” exclaimed Philip Horn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
“We’re poised to be a critical element in Erie’s turnaround and in generating hometown pride. We’ve been a member of the community for over 100 years,” said Steve Weiser, executive director of the Erie Philharmonic. While free outdoor summer concerts and the high-quality performances that attract audiences from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh are helping address the regional tourism goal, the philharmonic also focuses deep within its community to expand and strengthen arts programming in schools and neighborhoods.
The Erie Philharmonic’s capacity to reach students, teachers, schools, and neighborhoods is amplified by a PCA grant for a long-term residency program, which enables musicians to engage with one pre-school annually for 60 days of instruction over the course of several months. In the fall of 2016, instruction took place in a neighborhood community center where the majority of students were refugees from Nepal for whom English is a second language.
“There are community centers throughout Erie that are critical in helping to resettle the large refugee population that has migrated to Erie, and the centers are key to connecting us to students and their families,” said Lisa Herring, director of community impact at the Erie Philharmonic. “Whenever we have a visiting artist, or available seats in our theater, we’ll offer free ticket vouchers to the community centers.”
Sissem added that classroom teachers have gone so far as to meet parents on a Saturday at their early-learning site and walk to a cultural activity together, so that students and parents felt comfortable. “We learned a lot from that experience,” Sissem said. “Offering free tickets doesn’t guarantee participation. We needed to be sure that community members felt comfortable entering the space.”
The Erie Philharmonic also has cultivated strong relationships with elementary school teachers and students. “The elementary schools have a music class that may meet once every six to eight days,” said Weiser. “We’ll bring a guest artist into different schools, typically every other week or once a month, to give students a chance to interact directly with an artist.”
For the middle grades, the Erie Philharmonic offers youth concerts, which it has been holding since the 1950s, making it one of the first orchestras in the U.S. to offer them. The philharmonic’s staff designs an extensive curriculum, geared to Pennsylvania’s arts curriculum and common core standards, and sends it to teachers three to six months in advance of the concert. It includes pre- and post-concert tests; lesson plans in geography, science, and history that incorporate the concert material; and a listening CD with accompanying guide notes to the music.
Everything in the concert is based on what the students have learned through the curriculum. The opening section of the curriculum explains the families of the orchestra, a second section deals with specific musical terms, and a third section is based upon the concert theme for that particular season. “The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts funding goes a long way in making sure we offer these concerts, that they are free of charge for all students, and that we cover busing expenses for all students from the city of Erie so they can get to the concerts,” said Weiser.
Beyond the funding from PCA and Erie Arts & Culture, the Erie Philharmonic also has received direct NEA funding. Weiser noted, “We seek funding from the NEA for projects that have special meaning for our community. Beyond presenting a guest artist, we seek to reach places in our community that don’t have ready access to classical music.”
For example, the philharmonic received an NEA grant for an upcoming six-day festival in the 2018 season featuring classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein performing a world premiere piano concerto composed by Philip Glass. Outreach activities by both Dinnerstein and Glass will include master classes, in-school concerts, live radio performances, and high school lectures that will also feature music director Daniel Meyer and various philharmonic musicians. “Many of the schools we’ll be reaching are in communities facing extreme poverty with close to 100 percent of the students on free or reduced lunch plans,” said Weiser.
The collaborative support and resources of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Erie Arts & Culture, and the National Endowment for the Arts have helped the Erie Philharmonic yield great success in the Erie region, benefiting the health of the community and helping to realize important community priorities. As Horn described PCA’s partnership with the NEA and with regional partners like Erie Arts & Culture, “We’re really here to support an infrastructure that creates opportunities for Pennsylvanians to participate in the arts.”
Laura Scanlan is the director of the State and Regional program at the National Endowment for the Arts.
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
An Evening of Rodgers and Hammerstein - September 23
Broadway star Lisa Vroman takes the stage in a special Richard Rodgers tribute for the Philharmonic’s opening night of the 17-18 Pops series. With over 2000 performances as Christine in Phantom of the Opera under her belt, Lisa brings her incredible craftsmanship and loving admiration for the Golden Age of Broadway to the Warner stage. With music from King and I, Sound of Music, Carousel, Oklahoma, and other greats, our opening Pops concert will delight with some of the most memorable and beloved music from the the Broadway stage. Look for local favorites to make surprise cameos in this concert, as well.
All that Jazz with Chris Brubeck - October 28
There are few names in the jazz world that instantly evoke a special sound or even a tune in your ear, and Brubeck is one such name. With a musical heritage unmatched, the Brubeck Brothers Quartet draw on their famous father’s songbook in hits such as Take Five and Rondo Alla Turka, while also traversing a rich history of jazz in this special concert co-presented by Jazz Erie. Just imagine your favorite jazz standards from the past century tailored for the unique stylings of the Brubeck Brothers Quartet, and you’ll have a good idea of the delights in store on this special night.
Come Home for the Holidays - December 2
Home for the Holidays. It’s a concert that has become a treasured Erie tradition, drawing on our own fantastic local talent and of course featuring the tunes and arrangements you love to hear at this time of year from the Erie Philharmonic. We will again perform a one-act Saturday matinee, designed for families (and featuring a jolly old elf clad in red!), and a longer two-act version for Saturday evening, featuring the voices of the Erie Philharmonic Chorus. This December, you will not want to miss the triumphant return of local star Daniel Cabanillas, as he sings the season’s treasures and lends his warm, sparkling tenor voice to the Philharmonic’s most popular annual tradition. Bring your whole family to celebrate the sounds of the season, as we take you Home for the Holidays at the Warner Theatre.
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II - February 10-11
It’s no secret where most of us heard our first taste of classic symphonic music. It was through the inventive, madcap adventures of Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes! In February, we bring an amazing presentation of live film, coordinating the Erie Philharmonic playing in real-time to the original, beloved cartoons that brought us our first cinematic and musical adventures. Who can forget the classic chase scenes, the surprise scares, the hilarious misadventures of Bugs and his friends? We expect these concerts sell-out quickly, so get your tickets early for either of two performances, Saturday evening or a Sunday matinee. It’s a perfect way to introduce your family to the joy of great music, in a fun, exciting way that everyone can enjoy.
TM & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Greatest Fantasy Hits - March 24
Through video games, role-playing games, and the recent success of series such as Highlander, Game of Thrones, and Lord of the Rings, music from the world of fantasy has entered the public arena in a way like never before. With scores from Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, Spamalot, and Excalibur, our tribute concert to the genre’s most popular hits will be a dramatic evening of symphonic music that can bring the full color and power of the Erie Philharmonic to the very edge of the stage. Reserve your spot today for this Pops finale concert which will surely transport you to another time and place, filled with heraldry, bravery, wizardry, and romance!
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
October 7 - Beethoven's Triple
We open our season with three brilliant B’s. Samuel Barber’s Overture to the School for Scandal is the brash utterance of a young American composer looking to make his mark. Inspired by the witty banter and chatter of Sheridan’s play, Scandal soars with remarkable melodies and fanciful flights of musical whimsy. We then dive back into our four-year celebration of the music of Beethoven, inviting Erie favorite violinist Elena Urioste with two of her favorite collaborative partners, pianist Michael Brown and cellist Nick Canellakis. Beethoven’s Triple Concerto is a compositional tour-de-force, deftly integrating the sound of these three solo instruments into a concerto perfectly suited to an opening night celebration. Brahms waited until his 34th year to reveal his staggering First Symphony; he labored long to bring the work into life. Intimidated by the enormous mountain Beethoven had already scaled with his nine symphonies, Brahms admitted that he felt the pressure before making his own contribution to the form. Consequently, we have a brilliant combination of technical mastery coupled with depth of thought and emotion in one towering, triumphant symphony.
November 4 - Zarathustra Speaks
This evening of musical drama opens with an evocation of ancient brotherhood in Estonian Arvo Pärt’s Fratres. Set for strings, claves, and a single bass drum, Fratres emerges as a striking example of how rich and spiritual music can evolve out of humble ingredients. Young Armenian and former Tchaikovsky Competition-wining cellist Narek Hakhnazaryan makes his Erie Philharmonic debut with Shostakovich’s searing Cello Concerto No. 1. We finish with Also Sprach Zarathustra; from those famous first few bars, a rumble of an organ leads to a triumphant blast of the brass. Strauss’ infamous tone poem has appeared in numerous commercials and movie soundtracks, perhaps most notably featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey. This music will erupt in sonic splendor as the Erie Philharmonic performs this score laden with orchestral majesty and invention.
Scheherazade - January 27
Inspired by tales and impressions of the sea, we’ll begin with Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, which churls and sprays notes with tempestuous force. Following, world-renowned guitarist Sharon Isbin will make her Erie Philharmonic debut performing Rodrigo’s Fantasia para un gentilhombre. Steeped in rich Spanish musical tradition, the Fantasia is an imaginative and richly-woven musical tale. To finish the program, the Philharmonic will bring Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade to life. Our own concertmaster Ken Johnston will take the virtuosic solo violin role, featuring moments inspired by the Arabian Nights.
The Brilliance of Beethoven - March 10-11
Beethoven 4/4. We are now well into our four-season exploration of what makes Beethoven such a musical giant, and we look forward to a major celebration of his life and works in honor of his birthday in 2020. Along our journey, this March performance takes us through two brilliant contributions to the piano literature: his Concerto No. 4 and the Choral Fantasy. Beloved northwest Pennsylvania piano virtuoso Alec Chien takes the solo spotlight in both works. The Fourth Concerto marks a significant point in Beethoven’s creative life, where the heroic nature of his style is perfectly matched with an introspective and expressive voice. The Choral Fantasy serves as a preamble of sorts: using a full chorus, soloists, and a solo piano, this work points towards how Beethoven would amass similar forces to change the symphony forever in his ‘Ode to Joy.’ Between these two works, we celebrate the birthday of the great American composer Leonard Bernstein. Commissioned in 1965, Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms is quintessentially Bernstein: richly melodic and striking in its catchy rhythms, all in the service of the evocative prayer-poetry of Kind David from the Book of Psalms.
Simone Dinnerstein Returns - April 7
We will open our season finale concert with Sergei Prokofiev’s witty and spirited romp through the 18th century (refracted through decidedly 20th Century lenses) in his Classical Symphony. Then Erie favorite Simone Dinnerstein returns to perform one of her specialties – the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Simone will pair one of his lively keyboard concertos with a brand new work, co-commissioned by the Erie Philharmonic, by American icon Philip Glass. Designed for the same orchestral forces as the Bach, Glass’ new Concerto for Piano and Orchestra is destined to become an important contribution to the genre. Our evening and 17-18 season comes to a stunning close with Ravel’s music from his ballet Daphnis et Chloé. In two suites extracted from the full ballet, Ravel chose the most sumptuous and sensuous music from his iconic ballet to feature the sheer power and sweep of an orchestra in full bloom.
Our 2017-18 Season is finally here!
From April 1 soloist Jenny Oaks Baker
I am very excited to come back to Erie to perform! The audiences are so warm and welcoming and performing with Maestro Meyer is always a treat! I am also thrilled to be performing this Disney program! I love music that is accessible and universal, and I think that we have put together a program that will be appreciated by both young and old!
I have much appreciation for those parents and grandparents who introduce their children and grandchildren to the Arts and help foster within the the next generation an appreciation for them. I learned to play the violin as a four year old, sitting on my mother's lap. As I sat on her lap, my mother played my notes on the piano but she taught me more than just the notes. She taught me to love music, the arts and the creative process. She taught me exactness and honor as she required that each mistake be carefully corrected. She taught me about beauty of sound and harmony in life. She showed me how music shared can develop, enhance and solidify relationships. My mother and I were extremely close, and this bond was largely fostered through the many hours we spent together as she patiently practiced and performed with me. My mother died of cancer when I was 23, but she lives on through her gift of music to me. And now I am trying to foster this same love of music with my own four children. Here is a link to our most recent music video: http://youtu.be/fA3XjrgrD2E. Music has brought our family closer together, and I am so grateful for the way it has blessed our lives!
John Adams, second President of the United States stated: " I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain." John Adams knew how important the Arts are to humanity and was willing to dedicate his life to politics and war so that his posterity would have the privilege of studying and enjoying music and the arts. How much more of a priority it should be to us living in these in incredibly chaotic modern times, to give our children and grandchildren all the emotional, mental, social and intellectual benefits of a musical appreciation and education.
I look so forward to performing all my Disney favorites for the audience in Erie! And I hope that this concert helps engender an even deeper love of music in many young and old hearts!
~ Jenny Oaks Baker
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
Did you ever have a musical experience that stayed with you, even years after it happened? Perhaps it was a great concert you attended that really made an impact on you. Maybe it was a performance in which you participated – one that led you to ignite a passion for a particular instrument or composer. One of the great pleasures of leading the Erie Philharmonic is that I get the opportunity to relive some of those memorable moments in my own musical journey.
This finale concert for our 16-17 Symphonic Season includes three such works for me. The first is a brilliantly orchestrated version of J.S. Bach’s Fantasia and Fugue in c minor. I distinctly remember as an Assistant Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony looking for just the right piece to fit into my Young People’s Concert called ‘Musicalympics.’ The piece needed to prominently feature a fugue. The whole concept was to teach the idea of a fugue subject and how it must be shared among the instrumental groups. I proposed that the fugue’s subject, or recognizable first few notes, was in essence a musical baton that needed to be handed to the next group in order for the piece to continue, much like a baton is passed in an Olympic relay race. I struggled to find just the right piece that was brief enough for a young audience, but clear enough that the students could easily follow this fugue subject as it was tossed among the orchestra. Edward Elgar (one of my favorite composers) provided just the right piece. He brought this very rich and compact fugue to life in a densely-packed reworking of a piece originally written for the pipe organ. It’s brilliant and colorful, and sounds just as much like Elgar as it does Bach, and for that I deeply admire the piece.
As for Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, it is a work I had the pleasure of singing under the baton of my college mentor, Dr. William Osborne at Denison University as an undergraduate. I found the piece to be dramatic, stormy, and serious. It deftly weaves war poetry of Walt Whitman with phrases from the Latin rite of the Mass, and it is as touching as it is despondent. Ultimately a call for peace, Dona Nobis Pacem delves into what we must endure in order achieve peace. I am thrilled to be able to to lead this work from the podium, and work again the the Erie Philharmonic Chorus, Slippery Rock University Choir, and soloists from the Pittsburgh Opera.
The final work on the program is Saint-Saëns’ Third Symphony. It’s nicknamed ‘Organ’ for its use of that instrument in the work. It serves as a means to extend the enormous sound Saint-Saëns can draw from the orchestra, and it of course makes a huge impact on anyone who is fortunate enough to hear a live performance. For me, it was the first work I conducted at the Aspen Music Festival as a fully-fledged ‘professional’ conductor. It was the work my mentor David Zinman chose for me to make my debut at that festival after two years as an assistant conductor and student. I had the great fortune of leading this work with an organ specifically tuned for the large tent at the festival, which to this day is still ringing in my ears!
I hope you will enjoy this musical trip back into my own history as a performer and artist, and help us celebrate the finale to another wonderful season with the Erie Philharmonic.
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
A pops violinist?!? It’s such an interesting proposition, because let’s face it, when you think of Symphony Pops, the first thing that comes to mind may be a crooner singing Sinatra, or Broadway stars singing hits from the New York stage. You might even think of one of our very popular movie nights, or a rock tribute act much like the one our friends from Jeans n’ Classics bring to Erie. But a pops violinist? That’s something new…
But it actually makes a lot of sense, when you get to know Jenny Oaks Baker. She is a former violinist in the National Symphony from Washington, DC. Her brilliant technique on the violin makes her more than qualified to play with the finest ensembles in the world, but she remembers distinctly playing in pops concerts conducted by the late Marvin Hamlisch. She kept thinking to herself that she could certainly perform and develop programs that would feature the solo violin. Why not? The violin is one of the most expressive and beloved of all the orchestral instruments, and there are plenty of instances where popular hits have been transcribed for stringed instruments. They are so close in expression to the human voice, so the violin in particular lends itself to simulating the human voice. Yet with the other virtuosic capabilities of the violin, there are so many more possibilities to bring these favorite hits to life in a special way.
So that is precisely what Jenny Oaks Baker did. She developed a series of arrangements for solo violin and orchestra that fit beautifully into the pops context. And when she came to Erie a couple years ago to perform on our Home for the Holidays concert, she made an enormous splash. So many audience members came to me afterwards and asked if she could return as soon as possible. I was happy to discover that she had arranged and created an entire album of Disney favorites, and I quickly surmised that with this classic music, Jenny could make a triumphant return to our Pops series and style an entire evening around her violin.
So help me welcome this wonderful and very creative artist back to the Warner. This concert is designed with families in mind, so if there is someone in your family you would like to introduce to the Philharmonic, this might just be the right first entry into a wonderful world of the Pops Violin!
Prepared by Ken Meltzer
Fantasia and Fugue in C minor for Solo Organ, BWV 537 (ca. 1708-17) (orch. Elgar)
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685, and died in Leipzig, Germany, on July 28, 1750. The first complete performance of the Elgar orchestration of the Bach Fantasia and Fugue in C minor took place in Gloucester, England, on September 7, 1922, Edward Elgar, conducting.
Approximate performance time is nine minutes.
In addition to his incomparable talents as a composer, Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the finest keyboard virtuosos of his day. Bach’s mastery extended to both the harpsichord and organ. Bach’s technique was so superb that he was able to execute the most difficult passages with a minimum of visible effort. As Bach’s first biographer, Johann Nicolaus Forkel, described:
Bach is said to have played with so easy and so small a motion of the fingers that it was hardly perceptible. Only the first joints of the fingers were in motion; the hands retained, even in the most difficult passages, its rounded form; the fingers rose very little from the keys, hardly more than in a trill, and when one was employed the others remained quietly in position. Still less did the other parts of his body take any share in his playing, as happens with many whose hand is not light enough. He rendered all of his fingers, of both hands, equally strong and serviceable, so that he was able to execute not only chords and all running passages, but also single and double trills with equal ease and delicacy.
Bach’s employment as an organist occurred during his early years in Arnstadt, Mülhausen and Weimar. It was during the Weimar years (1708-1717) that Bach composed the majority of his music for organ, including, in all likelihood, the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 537.
British composer Edward Elgar’s lavish orchestration of the Bach Fantasia and Fugue spanned the years 1921-22. In April of 1921, Elgar orchestrated the Fugue portion, which premiered in Queen’s Hall in London on October 27, 1921, Eugene Goossens, conducting. Elgar was hopeful that Richard Strauss would orchestrate the opening Fantasia. But when that did not occur, Elgar orchestrated the Fantasia as well. The Bach/Elgar Fantasia and Fugue in C minor premiered at the Gloucester Festival on September 7, 1922, under Elgar’s direction.
Dona nobis pacem, A Cantata for Soprano and Baritone Soli, Chorus and Orchestra (1936)
Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney, England, on October 12, 1872, and died in London, England, on August 26, 1958. The first performance of Dona nobis pacem took place at the Huddersfield Town Hall in Huddersfield, England, in on October 2, 1936. Albert Coates conducted the Hallé Orchestra and Huddersfield Choral Society.
Approximate performance time is thirty-six minutes.
Ralph Vaughan Williams composed his cantata, Dona nobis pacem, in 1936. The Huddersfield Choral Society commissioned the work as part of the celebration of its 100th anniversary. At the time, storm clouds were gathering throughout Europe with the rise of the Nazis and Fascists. War seemed more and more inevitable with each passing day.
Vaughan Williams had been a first-hand witness to the horrors of war. Following the outbreak of World War I, Vaughan Williams, 42 years old, enlisted in the Army. Vaughan Williams worked in the field ambulance unit, transporting the wounded from the battlefield in the Neuville St. Vaast region.
Vaughan Williams was devastated by the deaths of many of his friends in battle, including the promising young British composer, George Butterworth (1885-1916). Vaughan Williams confessed to Gustav Holst:
I sometimes think now that it is wrong to have made friends with people much younger than oneself—because there will only be the middle aged left and I have got out of touch with most of my contemporary friends—but then there is always you and thank Heaven we have never got out of touch and I don’t see why we ever should.
Toward the end of his life, Vaughan Williams said of the great American poet, Walt Whitman (1819-1892): “I’ve never got over him, I’m glad to say.” Prior to the outbreak of World War I, Vaughan Williams set Whitman’s Civil War poem, Dirge for Two Veterans, for chorus and orchestra. The Dirge became the centerpiece of the 1936 cantata, Dona nobis pacem.
For the remainder of the cantata’s text, Vaughan Williams incorporated two more Whitman Civil War poems, a portion of a House of Commons speech by John Bright given during the Crimean War, and the Old Testament. In addition, a portion of the Latin Mass serves as a recurring leitmotif, and the source of the work’s title.
The trajectory of the text and music of Dona nobis pacem reflects hope for a brighter future. That optimism was sorely tested by the events of World War II. Vaughan Williams conducted Dona nobis pacem several times in England during the War and the music was, according to his widow, Ursula, “full of particular meaning for those days.” Events since that time have done nothing to diminish the power, beauty, and relevance of Vaughan Williams’s composition, or the haunting eloquence of the soprano’s repeated prayer to “grant us peace.”
Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Opus 78 (“Organ Symphony”) (1886)
Camille Saint-Saëns was born in Paris, France, on October 9, 1835, and died in Algiers, Algeria, on December 16, 1921. The first performance of the “Organ Symphony” took place at St. James’s Hall in London, England, on May 19, 1886, with the composer conducting the London Philharmonic Society.
Approximate performance time is thirty-six minutes.
Camille Saint-Saëns composed his Third Symphony at the request of the Philharmonic Society of London. Saint-Saëns had been contemplating a new symphony for some time. A few months after the 1885 commission, the composer informed the Philharmonic that the work was:
"...well under way. It will be terrifying, I warn you...This imp of a symphony has gone up a half-tone; it didn’t want to stay in B minor and it is now in C minor. It will be a treat for me to conduct it. Will it be a treat, though, for the people who hear it? That is the question. It’s you who asked for it. I wash my hands of the whole thing."
The premiere of the Third Symphony took place in London’s St. James’s Hall on May 19, 1886. The evening was a great personal triumph for Saint-Saëns. The composer led the Philharmonic Society of London in his new Symphony, and was also the soloist in his Fourth Piano Concerto.
The London audience’s response to the Symphony was generally positive. After the concert, Saint-Saëns was given an audience with the Prince of Wales, later crowned King Edward VII. The January 9, 1887 Paris premiere, again conducted by Saint-Saëns, was yet another success. After the performance, as Saint-Saëns descended the podium, composer Charles Gounod proclaimed: “There goes the French Beethoven!”
The Saint-Saëns Third, with its stunning orchestration and ingenious thematic manipulation, is one of the most important French symphonies of the second half of the nineteenth century. Camille Saint-Saëns did not compose another symphony during the final thirty-five years of his life. As he remarked: “I have given all that I have to give...What I have done I shall never do again.”
The Third Symphony comprises two principal sections, each with two parts. Part I begins with a brief slow introduction (Adagio), leading to the principal Allegro moderato, and a restless string figure that will appear in various guises throughout the Symphony. In the slow-tempo portion of Part I (Poco adagio), the organ accompanies the violins, violas, and cellos, as they play the affecting principal melody.
The opening portion of Part II (Allegro moderato), serving the function of a traditional scherzo, opens with a dialogue between the strings and thundering timpani. A quicksilver Presto episode introduces, according to the composer, “a fantastic spirit.” The final portion of the “Organ Symphony” (Maestoso; Allegro) brings the work to a majestic close.
From March 11 soloist Sari Gruber
Running through flower-speckled fields, climbing apple trees, chasing cows and chickens on the farm up the hill, playing in the hay loft, helping my mother in the vegetable garden, tasting the flavors of various flower nectars, being called back inside for the day by an alpine cow bell…such was my idyllic childhood growing up on the Berghof, the Zundel family estate majestically situated on a hill overlooking Lustnau, small farming village outside Tübingen, Germany, where my father did research in physical chemistry at the institute located on the grounds. Having both lived in Germany prior to my birth, my American parents spoke fluent German, and were happy to raise my older sister and me fully immersed in German language and culture, taking in the many musical and operatic offerings at the University of Tübingen and in nearby Stuttgart. My first language was Swabian, my second was German, and my third was English. (Why do I separate Swabian, an ancient dialect, from German? Just ask any German!)
Every weekend, my family went for hikes or bike rides in the surrounding forests, going on mushroom hunts for stew in the fall, and grilling sausages on twigs in the summer. We bottled our own water from a special spring in the far woods, where I remember the cuckoos calling as we walked through tall-as-the-sky pines. I can still smell the pretzels being baked at the bakery in town, and hear the sound of the church bells pealing at mass. In the Spring, we ate Spargel (white asparagus) wrapped in ham with butter. (You have not lived until you have tasted it!) We made our own apple cider every two years after picking the farmer’s apples on the Berghof, and my father would always bring me to the town’s apple press to watch the old wood and iron machine crush the apples into juice. He kept the old cider from two years prior to make “Mosht” in a big barrel in our basement – a truly awful brew, but, a chacun son gout, right?
The German culture really knows how to nurture young children, and that is a good thing since their high schools, which begin in grade 4, are quite academically rigorous. But the childhood is sacred there, and the social structure is geared towards nurturing the youngest in the herd. I had a marvelous time exploring, crafting, pretending, imagining…all to this splendid backdrop of rolling hills and forests, a close-knit community of friends and neighbors – and incredible food.
I left this bucolic childhood behind when my mother returned to the States with my sister and me when I was nine, but my vivid sensorial memories have helped me sustain a deep connection to that time in my life. Oddly enough, even though I have been a singer for a number of years, I have not had the opportunity to sing in German very often on the operatic stage where my repertoire has been predominantly Italian. Instead, I have found great joy on the recital stage singing German Lieder, and have even had the occasion to sing a few songs in Swabian (a rare treat, indeed!).
Few pieces describe my early childhood as accurately and beautifully as Mahler’s 4th Symphony, with its childlike view of heaven from the “Knaben Wunderhorn” in the final movement. Some Schubert, Brahms, Wolf and Strauss songs come close, as do some of Mahler’s other “Wunderhorn” settings. But in Mahler’s Symphony #4, brimming with the wonders of delicious foods, beautiful nature and the safety of being cared for by various saints, the sights, sounds and simplicity of life in the world beyond sound a lot like the heaven I had on earth for those few years in Germany, and I delight in stepping briefly back into that existence. Each time I approach this work, I am so humbled by the gift Mahler gave us in this symphony, and by the fact that I am lucky enough to have tasted something pretty close to heaven in my own childhood.
From Erie Philharmonic Long Term Residency Director Sarah Lee
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child,
and one teacher can change the world.”
- Malala Yousafzai
It is difficult, if not nearly impossible, to sit down and try to describe what the past 6 months have been like for all of us involved in the Erie Philharmonic’s Long-Term Residency. Starting at the end of August last fall, 60 days seemed to stretch on for such a long time; and yet here we find ourselves wrapping up the final day of the program. What I do know is this: when I read the quote spoken by Malala Yousafzai, above, I am reminded of just how great the impact of education is, how it is a vehicle for change in a community. I believe strongly that music has been this vehicle for education throughout the entire residency for these preschool students. Let me explain!
I will never forget the first day we (my co-teacher James Reinarz and I) walked into the preschool to begin the first day of our residency: it was the third day of preschool for almost all of the 50-60 children we would work with. What we now understand is that it wasn’t just the first day of preschool for many of these kids; it was a first American experience for the many refugee children attending this school. Many of the kids had not been in the country longer than a few months, weeks, or even days. We met children that first day of the residency from all over the world: the middle east, Africa, eastern Europe, Mexico, and of course the many refugee children from Nepal. We didn’t know that day that these children had probably never been in a building like this before, that they had possibly never been alone in an English-speaking setting before. That many of them were absolutely terrified and confused about what was going on, so much so that a few couldn’t even make it to the bathroom in time (it was an event-filled first day!). Sincemany refugee families don’t sign up early enough for us to get this information before the year begins (as they don’t understand how the system works), we didn’t know any of this important information ahead of time; we only realized as the morning went on, with much surprise and no preparation for it, that many (many!) of these children did not speak English, and that they were scared. What a surprise it is to walk into a classroom of 18 children where 16 of them don’t speak English!
But let me tell you something you probably already know: music is a universal language. Of course everyone knows this! But I wish I could explain to you how real this was for us on a weekly basis, how we were able to watch kids transform from quiet, fearful children that didn’t understand a word of English to dancing, expressive, creative, singing, children that soaked up English like sponges and loved to laugh. How some children (right here in Erie) have such disruptive home lives that the only way they know how to react is aggressively or loudly or with tears, but that “music class” was something that excited them, so they chose to make good (and difficult) behavior choices so that they could participate. The incredible break-though moments when a child, who hasn’t said a word in English (or any other language!) for the entire four months we’ve known him all of a sudden starts singing. Such joy! The moment when a child who we thought wasn’t able to understand anything we’ve taught so far is suddenly able to name all four instrumental families of the orchestra. Or a child who is so tired from whatever is going on at home that he can barely make it a minute (every class) without falling asleep is able to echo a melody, matching pitch perfectly with his beautiful voice and a big smile.
I can of course inundate you with the data that shows how successful the program was - yes the children grew in the many core standards taughtin the curriculum according to our assessments, and yes they all expanded their musical knowledge and appreciation; they may even be able to name more musical instruments than you! But since you weren’t able to be there with us every day to know and love these kids, I hope this is a small picture of just how big this program was, just how important it is for the future of our city, and just how special it was for all of us with the Erie Philharmonic. The work we were able to do hand in hand with the amazing staff and teachers at St. Benedict’s will give these kids many advantages as they move forward in their education to be successful, advantages that weren’t even a possibility before they came to the school or to this country.
Thanks so much to all of you who supported, both financially and with encouragement! I hope you will consider supporting us for the first time or again as we move to impact new preschool this upcoming fall!
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
Emanuel Ax is without a doubt one of the finest musicians to be currently living on our planet. He plays the piano with an unparalleled technical excellence, forms musical phrases that are simply astounding, and turns dots and dashes on a page into the most delightful music-making you can imagine. He has collaborated with all of this century’s great musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman, the Cleveland Orchestra and Berlin Philharmonic. He has made recordings that have been celebrated and most highly prized the world-over.
But of course this all doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There must be a human being of the highest order behind those notes to make a truly great artist: a human who feels deeply, thinks deeply, and cares about the musicians and audience members around him.
Emanuel Ax is that and much more. He brightens any room he enters with his own special sense of humor, his own positive way, his discreet but passionate care for details, be they musical or related to a collaborator or a student. Having had the distinct pleasure of collaborating with Mr. Ax once before, I know what an amazing and transformative experience this will be for our musicians. The chance to share the stage with him, to learn from him, to glean suggestions about phasing, to play Beethoven's Emperor Concerto with him…. That will be the chance of a lifetime, and I only hope that we open our arms to him as much as he has opened his heart to us in choosing to make Erie a stop in his rich and varied musical life.
Mr. Ax, thanks in advance for all that you will bring to Erie in your four-day residency with us. I, for one, cannot wait!
Prepared by Ken Meltzer
Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Opus 73 (“Emperor”) (1809)
Ludwig van Beethoven was baptized in Bonn, Germany, on December 17, 1770, and died in Vienna, Austria, on March 26, 1827. The first performance of the “Emperor” Piano Concerto took place in Leipzig, Germany, on November 28, 1811, with Friedrich Schneider as soloist, and Johann Philipp Christian Schulz conducting.
Approximate performance time is thirty-eight minutes.
Perhaps the “Emperor” Piano Concerto is the work that most eloquently testifies to Ludwig van Beethoven’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles through the sheer force of will and genius. Beethoven, a fiery virtuoso, had previously stunned Vienna with brilliant performances of his keyboard compositions, including four Concertos for Piano and Orchestra. By the time Beethoven began work on his E-flat Concerto in 1808, however, increasing deafness had made public appearances all but impossible. The “Emperor” is, in fact, the only Beethoven Piano Concerto not premiered by the composer himself.
Beethoven completed his Fifth Piano Concerto in 1809, the year Napoleon invaded Vienna. In May, Napoleon’s forces bombarded the city. Beethoven’s lodgings stood directly in the line of fire, and so he took refuge in a basement of another home. During the massive shelling, Beethoven tried to protect the last remnants of his hearing by covering his ears with pillows.
The succeeding French occupation brought physical and economic chaos. On July 26, 1809, Beethoven wrote to his publisher: “Normally I should now be having a change of scene and air—The levies are beginning this very day—What a destructive, disorderly life I see and hear around me, nothing but drums, cannons and human misery in every form....”
Through all of this turmoil and despair, Beethoven never lost his fierce sense of independence and rebellious spirit. Once, during the occupation, a friend spied Beethoven in a café. There the composer stood behind a French officer, shaking his fist and proclaiming: “If I were a general and knew as much about strategy as I do counterpoint, I’d give you fellows something to think about.” And there is an undeniable pride and heroism in the E-flat Concerto, music that refuses to capitulate to the misery Beethoven suffered during its composition.
The Concerto’s nickname, “Emperor,” was first used after Beethoven’s death. It relates not to any specific political figure, but to the work’s majestic character. Beethoven would compose no more piano concertos during the remaining 18 years of his life. Nevertheless, the “Emperor” is as fitting a summation of the composer’s achievements in the realm of the piano concerto as is the immortal Ninth in the symphonic repertoire.
The grand opening movement (Allegro) begins in dramatic fashion, as the orchestra’s massive chords are answered by the elaborate flourishes of the soloist. The beautiful slow-tempo second movement (Adagio un poco mosso) features a lovely melody, introduced by the muted violins. Toward the conclusion of the movement, one of several masterstrokes in this work creates a moment of incomparable magic. After a sudden and unexpected shift from B to B-flat, the soloist quietly entices the listener with fragments of the principal theme of the spirited finale, which follows without pause. The concluding movement (Rondo. Allegro) is based upon a jaunty theme, first played by the soloist, and immediately repeated by the orchestra. Beethoven adds a touch of mystery just before the closing measures, featuring the pianist accompanied only by the timpani. Suddenly a series of ascending flourishes by the soloist leads to an athletic restatement of the principal theme, and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto reaches its triumphant conclusion.
Symphony No. 4 in G Major (1900)
Gustav Mahler was born in Kaliště, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860, and died in Vienna, Austria, on May 18, 1911. The first performance of the Symphony No. 4 took place in Munich, Germany, on November 25, 1901, with Margarethe Michalek, soprano, and the composer conducting the Kaim Orchestra.
Approximate performance time is fifty-four minutes.
Gustav Mahler completed his Fourth Symphony in the summer of 1900. The premiere took place in Munich on November 25, 1901, with the composer leading the Kaim Orchestra. Before the opening performance, several members of the orchestra approached Mahler and confessed “they hadn’t been able to make head or tail of the work but would do their best to change their minds the following day.”
The audience and critics demonstrated a like sense of confusion. Everyone seemed to anticipate that Mahler’s Fourth would, in the spirit of his Second and Third Symphonies, be an epic, dramatic piece. They were decidedly taken aback by the apparent naïveté and simplicity of Mahler’s new score. Boos mingled with—and sometimes overwhelmed—demonstrations of support for Mahler’s latest Symphony. At the conclusion of the performance, Mahler took his bows “in a manner more furious than friendly.”
Nevertheless, the Fourth Symphony, with its abundant lyricism and relative brevity, quickly proved to be among the most accessible and popular of Mahler’s Symphonies. Today, each of Mahler’s Symphonies has received its due, both in concert performances and recordings. Still, the genial lyricism and grace of the Fourth, sometimes called Mahler’s “Pastorale” Symphony, continue to accord the work a favored status. Further, close analysis reveals that beneath the seemingly naïve exterior of the Fourth Symphony is an extraordinarily intricate, sophisticated, and unified work.
The following are some of Mahler’s comments regarding the nature and meaning of his Fourth Symphony:
What I had in mind here was unbelievably difficult to do. Imagine the uniform blue of the skies, which is more difficult to paint than all changing and contrasting shades. This is the fundamental mood of the whole. Only sometimes it darkens and becomes ghostly, gruesome. But heaven itself is not so darkened, it shines on in an eternal blue. Only to us it suddenly seems gruesome, just as on the most beautiful day in the woods, flooded with light, we are often gripped by panic and fear. The Scherzo (second movement) is mystical, confused and eerie so that your hair will stand on end. But in the following Adagio you will soon see that things were not so bad—everything is resolved.
In the final movement (“The Heavenly Life”), although already belonging to this higher world, the child explains how everything is meant to be.
The Symphony is in four movements. The first (Bedächtig. Nicht eilen) opens with a “sleigh bell” motif, followed by a grazioso dotted-rhythm figure, introduced by the first violins. Both play crucial roles in the finale. Bruno Walter, the great German conductor and Mahler disciple, described the second movement scherzo (In gemächlicher Bewegung. Ohne Hast) as “Freund Hein spielt zum Tanz auf (‘Friend Death is striking up the Dance’). Death fiddles rather strangely; his playing sends us up to heaven.” According to Mahler’s friend, Natalie Bauer-Lechner, the composer referred to the third movement (Ruhevoll) as: “‘The Smiling of St. Ursula’ and said that at the time he had a childhood image of his mother’s face in mind, recalling how she had laughed through grieving and had smiled through tears, for she had suffered unendingly yet had always lovingly resolved and forgiven everything.” In the finale (Sehr behaglich), a soprano sings Mahler’s setting of the poem Das himmlische Leben (The Heavenly Life).
From Music Director Daniel Meyer
When I step onto the Warner Theater stage, I sometimes think of a wonderful photograph from the 1940’s, taken in the Warner from the vantage point of the stage looking back out onto the house. It’s a packed house of patrons awaiting a night of first-run films. Everyone is dressed to the nines – the men in hats and the ladies in dresses, and I think of what it must have felt like to enter into this opulent space, have the lights dim, and settle in for an evening of cinema.
We’re bringing that sensation back this Saturday, February 7, with a full-length screening of Casablanca. But this time it’s with a twist. The Erie Philharmonic, under the baton of my good friend James Fellenbaum, will be performing the full orchestral soundtrack live, while the film is projected in high definition on a huge screen suspended above the stage.
You simply cannot experience this iconic film anywhere else, quite like this. While I wish I could be there with you on this special night, know that I will be imagining you as you settle into your seat, following a grand tradition of Erie moviegoers who enjoy classics on the big screen, but in the Erie Philharmonic’s own unique presentation.
Live in the studio with pianist Soyeon Kate Lee and host Brian Hannah.