Answering the call

Answering the call

Horns, heroes and home with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

 By Joe Aiello

It will be a weekend that should make the late lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jimmy Van Heusen look down from heaven into the Schuster Center. And smile.

No, they won’t hear the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra playing any of their songs. But DPO Musical Director Neal Gittleman surely must have had one of their songs in mind when he selected the repertoire for the Jan. 10-12 weekend concert series. The song? You doubtless know the music. The words go like this:

Make like a Mister Mumbles and you’re a zero,

Make like a Mister Big; they dig a hero.

You’ve got to sound your “A” the day you’re born,

I tell ya, chum, it’s time to come blow your horn.

And horns will blow all weekend long.

On Thursday, Jan. 10 and Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, Neal Gittleman and the DPO will present The Awakening, the fourth concert in the DPO 2012-2013 Imagine Season’s Miami Valley and Good Samaritan Hospitals Classical Series.

On these two nights the sound of the horn prevails throughout three musical works, none of which are alike, and each of which could not have been any more different from the other two. Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to the opera “Oberon,” a creation of mental images blending Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and a medieval legend, begins the program. This work begins with – what else? – a horn call, naturally. The music that follows is impressive, persuasive, sensitive, insightful, happy, optimistic and passionate.

Which, in a way, could almost describe the talented musicians of the DPO who will perform it. Especially those who play horns: Aaron Brant (Principal), Amy Lassiter, Todd Fitter and Sean Vore on French horn); Charles Pagnard (Principal), Alan Siebert and Daniel Lewis on trumpet; Timothy Anderson (Principal) and Richard Begel on trombone; Chad Arnow on bass trombone; and Timothy Northcut (Principal) on tuba.

And, like the DPO horn players, guest trombonist Haim Avitsur, Trombone Professor at West Chester University School of Music (Pa.) and at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College, N.Y., is all those things as well. His record is impressive; he has premiered over 80 new pieces encompassing a broad range of styles from solo trombone to chamber music and orchestra. He is sensitive; in performing with the DPO in a piece it co-commissioned composer Meira Warshauer to write, “Tekeeyah” (a call), he is tasked to ask you, as Warshauer said, to “… open your heart to its inner truth and to trust its deepest longings” and “ … help us hear the call from the earth and the Creator that we are one.”

No small feat that. And not just because he will be soloing in the commissioning’s capstone performance on just a trombone, but also on a shofar, a ram’s horn used in Jewish synagogue services.

The concert concludes with Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3, his final symphony and an exercise in sublime fusion, melding as it does his distinctive American style of music for such ballets as “Rodeo,” “Billy the Kid” and “Appalachian Spring” within the context of a symphony. The fourth movement features – what else? – the horns, performing the well-known “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

On Friday, Jan. 11 at 8 p.m. in the Mead Theatre of the Schuster Center, the DPO will present Copland’s Call of Heroism, the second concert in the DPO 2012-2013 Imagine Season’s Demirjian Classical Connections Series. As Thursday’s and Saturday’s concerts featured horns, Friday’s features home. And heroes. And, yes, of course, horns.

In World War II, almost everyone on the home front was pitching in to aid in the war effort. Aaron Copland did his part; he composed significant patriotic music. Accepting a commission from Bandleader Paul Whiteman of American Broadcasting System’s Philco Radio Hour, Copland composed “Letter From Home,” a brief, poetic essay for small orchestra for an Oct. 17, 1944 radio premiere. “Letter from Home” demonstrates the mild, more personal aspects of Copland’s music with instances of understated loveliness and effortless charisma. The piece resonates with the despondence, homesickness, melancholy, hopefulness and contemplation of American troops fighting a war overseas.

The Friday Classical Connections Series concert ends with the same final work featured in Thursday’s and Saturday’s concerts, Aaron Copland’s Symphony No. 3. In 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, Copland completed his Third Symphony, and Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered it later that same year.

In all, Copland composed a total of five symphonies, but he numbered only three. It is the third, and last, of these that many consider to be the quintessential “American” symphony. And the fourth movement’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” has a decidedly local history … of sorts. In 1942, U.S. Vice-President Henry A. Wallace made a speech, later to become famous, in which he said that that particular time period was the dawning of the “Century of the Common Man.” Later the same year, inspired by Wallace’s speech, Copland composed “Fanfare for the Common Man” for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and conductor Eugene Goossens. Since then the music has found its way into U.S. and British productions, especially in the musical scores of movies and, of course, into TV commercials.

In the unique Classical Connections format of first-half description and explanation and second-half performance, DPO Music Director Neal Gittleman analyzes each movement.

The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will perform “The Awakening” on Thursday, Jan. 10 and Saturday, Jan. 12 and Copland’s “Call of Heroism” on Friday, Jan. 11 at the Schuster Center, 2 W. Second St. For more information, including tickets and times, visit daytonperformingarts.org/philharmonic.


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A member of the Writers Guild of America, native Daytonian Joe Aiello is the author of numerous screenplays, non-fiction books, novels, TV sitcom pilots, news features, magazine articles, and documentaries. He fills his spare time coaching College, A, AA amateur and semi-pro baseball teams; answering trivia quizzes; and denigrating himself attempting to play golf. Reach Joe at JoeAiello@daytoncitypaper.com.

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