The Mother Lode Symphony teams with conductor Ryan Murray to bring music to Angels Camp
In their first appearance with conductor Ryan Murray, the Chamber Orchestra of the Mother Lode Friends of Music will be serving up a buffet of American Composers. Murray, who is also artistic director of the Fresno Opera, brings the passion of youth to the music (at 31 he is the youngest director in the history of the Fresno Opera). According to president and pianist Ron Brickman, they’ll be treating listeners to a “nice survey of American music.”
That means there will be something for everyone. Lovers of European-style symphony will be pleased with the soaring Suite for Strings of Arthur Foote; those more in tune with 20th-century orchestra works will tear up at the emotion in Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
Celebrate spring with Copland
Perhaps the most winning of all the pieces planned for Sunday—and the cornerstone of the concert—is Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” commissioned by choreographer and dancer Martha Graham. Written for a ballet, the music has become a stand-alone American classic concert known for the motif of a Shaker hymn that skips and glides through the piece.
According to Murray, “There are few pieces of music that so simply and powerfully capture the spirit of American music.” The orchestra will perform the work the way it was originally performed, stripping the cast size down to just a 13-member set that includes strings, piano, and wind instruments.
“I find this original chamber version to be the most powerful arrangement of the work,” Murray said.
This arrangement might be unfamiliar to many listeners. “One just doesn’t have the opportunity to hear it live anymore,” Brickman said.
Two other Copland works will be familiar to listeners: “Quiet City,” which shows off Copland’s interest in jazz, and “Hoedown for Strings,” a rollicking tribute to American folk music that will remind you of every John Ford Western you’ve ever seen.
TSIAJ will make you laugh
To offset the earnestness of composers like Copland and Barber, the orchestra may shock you by their performance of Charles Ives’s “TSIAJ (This Scherzo is a Joke).”
According to Brickman, it’s a conglomeration of sound. “He took common tunes, Yale fraternity songs, American folk music. It’s like a revival meeting on speed. There are over 30 little snippets of popular American tunes. It’s kind of a puzzle.”
"Charles Ives was a radical.
When this piece was first performed, Brickman said, “it was unlike anything that came before. It was just like exploding a bomb. It will probably be like that in our concert. People will be blown away.”
Charles Ives was a “radical,” Brickman said, “Ahead of his time. He was an original American who wrote original music.”
All the featured composers were Americans who wanted to create a new, energetic language for a new energetic land. The selected pieces are modern-sounding, chic, clean, and pulsing with the power of America. This concert of American composers will make your Sunday great.
Tickets for the March 5 performance are available at calaverasarts.org, 209/754-1774, at the office/gallery at 22 Main St. in San Andreas, or at the theatre box office starting at 2:30 pm the day of the concert.
The Bret Harte Theatre is located at 323 Highway 49, Angels Camp, where there’s plenty of free parking and many designated handicapped seats.
The Mother Lode Friends of Music concert is part of the Ovations 2017 Performing Arts Series, a concert series presented by the Calaveras County Arts Council, a 35-year old non-profit organization, partially funded by the California Arts Council, a State agency.
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