DAYTON, OH (March 1, 2018) – On Friday, March 16, 2018 and Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 8:00 pm in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Artistic Director and Conductor Neal Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will present the sixth concert in the 2017–2018 Premier Health Masterworks Series, A Sea Symphony, pairing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ epic A Sea Symphony with Claude Debussy’s “impressionistic” La mer.
Then, on Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 3 pm in the Mead Theater of the Schuster Center, Maestro Gittleman and the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will present the 2017-2018 Demirjian Classical Connections Series concert The Sea: Vaughan Williams’ Siren Call, with support from Graeter’s. A Q&A with Neal and a Graeter’s ice-cream social follow this Sunday concert. This concert will take an in-depth look at England’s great composer and his enduring and brilliant homage to the sea.
For this weekend’s performances, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra welcomes two incredibly talented guest vocalists to the Schuster Center Stage. Soprano Angela Mortellaro and baritone Grant Youngblood, who have each performed recently with Dayton Opera, return to Dayton once again to lend their expert vocals to this three-day concert weekend.
Also filling the stage with song will be the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus, comprising over 120 local vocalists. Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus members are selected volunteer singers from throughout the Miami Valley and join the Orchestra in concert several times each season to perform some of the most challenging and beautiful choral-orchestral music in the Western tradition. The DPO Chorus is directed by Hank Dahlman, who also holds the title of Director of Choral Studies at Wright State, where he serves as the conductor of the WSU Collegiate Chorale. In 2015, Dahlman was appointed to the rank of University Professor, the university’s highest rank, held by only three faculty members at any one time.
Joining the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus will be members of the Springfield Chorale, directed by Basil Fett, and the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra Chorus, conducted by Paul John Stanbery. In total, over 140 vocalists will be taking the stage with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra to present this grand choral event.
As spring is just around the corner, a musical program revolving around the theme of water is fitting. Water has symbolized many things over time, including fertility, purity or purification, and the passage of life. One metaphor that fits nicely with the music of this performance is that of flowing water representing a beautiful journey.
The journey of the Masterworks concerts on Friday and Saturday begins on the Mediterranean coast. Claude Debussy’s La mer consists of three symphonic sketches that capture the composer’s fascination with the sea. As a nine-year-old child, Debussy had traveled to the coast with his family. It was then, at his first impression, that he became greatly enamored by the sea’s crashing waves and endless view. Although categorized by his critics and reviewers as “impressionistic,” Debussy labeled his work as symbolist, in line with French symbolist poets Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud. La mer, as a work of symbolism, invites listeners to the shore. Rather than writing this piece on site, Debussy composed this musical portrait mostly while in Paris, claiming that the sea would distract him. This complex piece of music was not entirely appreciated at its initial performance in 1905. But times have changed, and Debussy’s largest orchestral work is a beloved piece of many orchestral repertoires.
The evening’s journey then tumbles onto the waves of the open ocean. The Philharmonic ends the evening with British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams’ A Sea Symphony. First premiered in 1910, A Sea Symphony was the first of the composer’s nine symphonies. Vaughan Williams set the music to verses within Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Perhaps the composer was drawn to this collection of poems that celebrated not just life, but humanity. The composer was of a similar mind in that he believed that music was for everyone. He worked to unearth and resurrect the body of English music. He didn’t want to “look to Germany” and its composers for music; he sought to find the music of his country and bring it into the 20th century. And that he did, as Vaughan Williams spent his career as a beloved and key British composer. He had one of the longest creative spans in musical history, composing well into his eighties—a 66-year period of productivity. At his death, his ashes were interred in Westminster Abbey near Henry Purcell.
“Whether my music is good or bad, it is always honest. . . . I could not put down on paper a line which I did not first feel in every part of me.” (Ralph Vaughan Williams) Don’t miss this musical voyage, all told in honest, rollicking song.
Tickets for A Sea Symphony range from $16 to $65 and are available at Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or online at www.daytonperformingarts.org. Tickets for The Sea: Vaughan Williams’ Siren Call range from $15 to $43 and are also available at Ticket Center Stage (937) 228-3630 or online at www.daytonperformingarts.org. Senior, teacher and student discounts are available for both concerts at the box office. For more information or to order subscriptions, including flexible subscription types that include performances by Dayton Philharmonic, Dayton Opera and Dayton Ballet, visit www.daytonperformingarts.org