Sunday, October 7, 2012
Bryan Fine Arts Building, Tennessee Tech University
- 2 p.m., concert preview, Room 223
- 3 p.m., concert begins, Wattenbarger Auditorium
- 5 p.m. (estimated), post-concert reception, lobby
Danner: Costumes of the Sky
Beethoven: 9th Symphony
The BSO's first performance of Beethoven’s last symphony will be a landmark event in Cookeville, with guest appearances by audience favorites from previous seasons. The October concert also includes the premiere of "Costumes of the Sky," written by Gregory Danner, winner of the 2010 Composers Guild Grand Prize and an annual ASCAP honoree since 1989. Joining the BSO onstage for the performance are 130 singers from the Tech Chorale and Cookeville Mastersingers, directed by Craig Zamer, director of vocal activities at TTU. Guest soloists well-known to the BSO audience include Diane Pulte, from “The Marriage of Figaro” in 2009; Shana Blake Hill, from “Madama Butterfly” in 2008; Ryan Taylor, from “Carmina Burana” in 2007; and new to the BSO, tenor Nathan Munson. READ MORE
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association gratefully acknowledges the sponsors of our October 2012 performance: Bank of Putnam County and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
A limited number of individual tickets may still be available for this performance and may be reserved in advance of each concert -- or they may be available at the box office prior to each concert.
- Adult: $32
- Seniors (65+): $27
- Students: $8
Call the box office at 931-525-2633 for ticket reservations or stand-by ticketing.
Directions and Parking
The Bryan Symphony Orchestra performs all regular subscription and education concerts in Wattenbarger Auditorium, the concert hall of the Bryan Fine Arts Building on the Tennessee Tech University campus. The Bryan Fine Arts Building is located on the corner of 12th Street and North Dixie Avenue in Cookeville.
From Interstate 40, take Exit 286 (Willow Avenue). Turn north on Willow and travel approximately two miles to 12th Street and turn right.
Free parking on concert Sundays is available anywhere on campus. The nearest large parking lots are across Dixie Avenue from the Bryan Fine Arts Building, between Tucker Stadium and the Volpe Library, behind the Roaden University Center and at the former Prescott Middle School, two blocks away on 10th Street.
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BSO BACKSTAGE: Audience members in the Upper Cumberland can tune in to “BSO Backstage” on public television station WCTE-TV (Ch. 10 on Charter cable in Cookeville and Ch. 22 on Dish and Direct satellite). An original WCTE production hosted by Desiree Duncan with guests Allcott and Laura Clemons, interim executive director of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra Association, the program broadcasts at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 27; at 9:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29; at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 30; and at 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 4.
CROSSVILLE PREVIEW LUNCHEON: Cumberland County hosts a preview concert luncheon beginning at 11 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Palace Theater on Main Street in Crossville. Cost is $10 and payable at the door. Call 931-484-6133 for reservations by Monday, Oct. 1.
CONCERT DAY EVENTS: On the day of the concert, Sunday, Oct. 7, Catherine Godes of the TTU music faculty will give a free preview lecture at 2 p.m. in Room 223 of the Bryan Fine Arts Building. The concert itself begins at 3 p.m. A post-performance reception takes place in the lobby, hosted by Sean and Michelle O’Neil, followed by dinner at Mauricio’s Italian Restaurant near the TTU campus, 232 N. Peachtree Ave. Call 931-525-2633 for dinner reservations by noon, Saturday, Oct. 6.
Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012
DANNER: Costumes of the Sky
BEETHOVEN: Symphony no. 9
What makes life worth living? Love. An occasional spark of joy. Hope. The recognition that there can be something larger than ourselves -- a connection with others that demonstrates that we’re not alone in our experience of life.
Composers of music strive to utilize a universal language to express this shared experience. Music, art and literature break all boundaries, all the cultural trappings that can divide us as readily as they bind us. Art is a transcendent description of what it means to be alive.
COSTUMES OF THE SKY (world premiere)
By Greg Danner (1958- )
In this part of the world, you never have to look far to find talent. Today’s program begins with the world premiere of a Greg Danner composition which was, in turn, inspired by work by poet Clara Cox Epperson, a well-known local writer in the early 20th century and former Tennessee poet laureate.
Commissioned as a fanfare, “Costumes of the Sky” quickly grew to a 12-minute work showcasing the faculty of Tennessee Tech’s two resident quintets, the Cumberland Quintet and the Brass Arts Quintet, assisted by percussion professor Eric Willie.
The Epperson poem is a celebration of nature that casts the celestial bodies into roles personifying the themes of renewal and rebirth. The sky, a compassionate presence sheltering the earth, “flings her canopy of stars over the suffering world” at day’s end, in preparation for a “restful, dreamful Night.” At dawn, the sky wakes the world with the “coming of her lover Sun” and the cycle begins anew.
Born in Gainesboro in 1865, Epperson was the daughter of a Confederate officer and a postmistress who regularly drove an ox cart to Kentucky for supplies during the Civil War. Her brother founded the region’s largest telephone company, and her sister was a concert pianist. Clara Cox studied in Nashville, earning a master’s degree in 1891. She married John Epperson and the couple set up housekeeping in Algood, where they built a home she named “Heartsease.”
A popular writer of her time, Epperson wrote sentimental poems preoccupied by women’s work, family, friends, faith – but also nature, and she possessed a gift for metaphor that rendered the world around her into something shiny and new. Her poems, short stories, features articles and more appeared in most Middle Tennessee newspapers, as well as Life magazine, the Progressive Teacher, Southern Women’s Magazine, and the Christian Herald. In her later years, she occupied the fringe of the Fugitive literary movement at Vanderbilt, critiquing manuscripts sent her by its more famous members.
An indispensable voice of the rural minority who championed the arts in our region, Epperson published widely until her death in 1937 at the home of her daughter, Elise Howard, wife of William Howard, the Army surgeon who built Cookeville’s first hospital. That building went on to house Putnam County’s first library, thanks to the sponsorship of the local Book Lovers Club, of which Epperson was book chairman. The library was named in Epperson’s honor; later, Tennessee Tech created a writing competition in her name.
Epperson’s writings were collected and edited by her close friend, Lottie Farr, a member of the Tennessee Folklore Society and wife of T.J. Farr, head of Tennessee Tech’s education program. The Farrs befriended a number of artistic luminaries of the Upper Cumberland, including composer Charles Faulkner Bryan, director of the Tennessee Tech music division in Epperson’s final years.
Danner’s thematic material closely parallels the Epperson poem, with three sections representing evening, night and dawn. After a dramatic introduction scored for the 11-member ensemble, the first section -- evening -- features solos from each of the woodwinds over a harmonic accompaniment with constantly shifting tonal colors. Night, a blues section, is played by the brass quintet, including a piccolo trumpet solo, and moving into a section for the alternate instruments of the wind quintet – alto flute, English horn, and bass clarinet. Dawn, the final section, is a celebratory dance alternating among winds, brass and percussion. The music ends with a declamatory fanfare heralding the new beginning.
SYMPHONY NO. 9 IN D MINOR, OP. 125
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
Beethoven worked hard for each scrap of happiness he found – for every moment of solace in his tortured life, for every moment of brilliance and insight that led to the music we venerate today.
Abused as a child by a father who sought to make him the next Mozart, he could barely bear to practice piano. Unlucky in love, he never married or made his own family, although he tried to co-opt one from his sister-in-law, with disastrous results. He loved intensely, but rarely received full measure from the women who caught his heart. With perhaps the greatest gift for composition the world has ever known, Beethoven steadily, inexorably, lost his hearing. The composer of some of the world’s most well-known symphonies never heard them, as he was completely deaf by the time of their premieres. He was notoriously moody, irritable and impatient to the point of misanthropy, and he lost friend after friend to ill temper and arrogance.
And yet … from the time he was 22, he aimed to compose a work based on the thematic material of the 1785 Friedrich Schiller poem “An die Freude,” or “Ode to Joy,” a plea for universal brotherhood amidst the chaos and upheaval of revolution – first in America and, soon after, in France.
Beethoven straddled two centuries and bridged the Classical and Romantic eras. His first two symphonies were direct reflections of a form perfected by Haydn and Mozart. His final seven dwarfed anything that had come before, bringing us closer and closer to the modern symphony. Everything got bigger: the number of musicians, the length of each movement, the sheer volume of the music -- culminating in the 9th, the most massive symphony audiences had ever heard.
Beethoven’s 9th has been said to be a universe of four galaxies – an entire symphony for each movement.
The first, a sonata, is as tempestuous as its composer’s moods. Its questing, hesitant opening strings are overcome in seconds by the power and might of the full orchestra.
The second reverses the traditional order of the scherzo and slow movement. Like Haydn, he was not afraid to tinker with form. A lively scherzo prepares for an ethereal adagio – a form that Beethoven had shown mastery of throughout his symphonies and string quartets.
By the third movement we can finally relax, sinking into the genesis of the lyrical, regal theme that serves as a foil to the rather simple melody of the finale. In traversing this world of the symphony, the third is where we catch our breath.
As for the fourth, there had never been anything like it. For 30 years, Beethoven had been reaching for this dream of universal brotherhood, this golden ring he could never quite grasp. Is it the majestic declamation of the first movement? Or the unrivaled might of the second? Or the sweetly lyrical third?
It was all of those things and more.
The fourth opens with a declamation by cello and bass, a recitative interspersed with elements of each of the first three movements. Here is a strain of the first, a glimpse of the second, a moment of the third… each step backward countered until the final reveal: a chorus and soloists.
A contemporary wrote that Beethoven’s struggle was epic – that the stakes had never been so high -- and he had already said so much. Part of the brilliance of Beethoven is his work ethic, the working out of the material, the struggle over it, the perseverance, and the insistence of reaching just one more height. If Mozart’s seeming perfection could be said to have a negative side, it was how easily the music appeared to come to him. Not so with Beethoven, who worked for every triumph.
So. There is the famous recitative of bass and cello preceding the voices – the glorious, declamatory voices that rise in a shout of jubilation. It’s the voices that let Beethoven shed all that had come before. The chorus is the revolution here. Because, in the end, the music wasn’t enough – not the music of man-made instruments, that is. It took the human voice to complete the cycle.
Beethoven was onstage for the premiere in Vienna’s Karntnertortheater in 1824. It’s said that at the end of the performance, one of the soloists turned the composer so he could see the audience’s standing ovations – all five of them.
By this point in his career, Beethoven was lionized by the European public. With his reputation for eccentricity, his wild mop of hair, his celebrity status, Beethoven defined our romantic image of the tortured, brilliant artist. It is Beethoven we can credit for the stereotype, with its implication that brilliance is only possible as a byproduct of emotional struggle.
Was that true? Did Beethoven carry the torch for joy for 30 years precisely because he was so in need of it? That the more he pushed people away, the more he yearned for a connection with them? If that is true, then the 9th Symphony reveals a side of Beethoven no one could have foreseen. Far from being misanthropic, Beethoven was showing a heroic altruism in his last symphony. His whole life, he hunted for joy, and he seems to have found it in this symphony.
It’s almost as if the Bryan Symphony has been waiting to perform this work. There have been plenty of other Sundays of Beethoven in the past 49 seasons, but never the 9th Symphony – not until now. It’s a crowning glory, a jubilant shout for joy, a symbol of what humans are capable of. It’s what art needs to be, a glimpse into that which unites us, not divides us.
Welcome to the 50th season of the Bryan Symphony Orchestra.
-- By Laura Clemons and Dan Allcott