Spooky in Springfield

SSO’s first-ever Fright Lights concert

By Tim Smith

Photo: Peter Stafford Wilson conducts the Springfield Symphony Orchestra during their Halloween-themed Fright Lights prgoram on Saturday, Oct. 31; photo: Bob Bingenheimer

Ghosts, goblins, thrills and chills will be served up during the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s first Nightlights 1—Fright Lights concert Oct. 31. The program of all things eerie will be performed at Clark State University’s Kuss Auditorium, which has served as the orchestra’s home since 1993. Fright Lights is one of seven programs planned for the current season.

The orchestra is turning this into a full weekend scare-fest. Planned events include a double feature at the Hub Gallery Oct. 29, showing “Death Curse of Tartu” and “Sting of Death”; “History, Mystery & Murder Tour” at the Westcott House followed by a Monster Mash-up at the Hub Gallery Oct. 30; an adult pumpkin-carving contest Oct. 31 and a Trick-or-Treat Afterglow following the concert. There will also be a costume party in the Performing Arts Center lobby prior to the show.

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra has been entertaining area music lovers since its inception in 1943. In addition to the Symphony Orchestra, the organization also boasts the Springfield Symphony Chorale, Springfield Youth Orchestra, Children’s Chorus and Concerts for Young People.

Peter Stafford Wilson is the orchestra’s music director, a post he has held since 2002. Programming the concerts is his responsibility, and he chose the selections because of their relevance to the Halloween theme.

“This is the first Halloween-based program we have done,” Wilson says. “It is the result of scheduling, which is a major challenge at a venue like the Clark State Performing Arts Center. Our concerts are on Saturday evenings, and this was the only Saturday in the window of opportunity for us, so we decided to seize the opportunity to do a pops program centered on Halloween music.”

The Fright Lights program includes music ranging from the Romantic period (“Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens) to Russian impressionism (“Night on Bald Mountain” by Mussorgsky), with a side trip through Hollywood (“Suite from Psycho” by Herrmann). Also slated to be performed are “Overture to Der Vampyr” (Marshner), “Symphonie Fantastique: The Witch’s Sabbath” (Berlioz) and “Suite from The Sorcerer’s Stone” (Williams).

“The formula, generally, is variety,” Wilson says. “I try to have different styles—in this case, I wanted a classical presence as well as modern movie music. I try to provide something that is familiar as well as new things.”

His favorite of the selections he has chosen? “Probably the Mussorgsky. I remember going to see ‘Fantasia’ as a child and being scared to death by ‘Night on Bald Mountain.’”

Past theme programs have included Veteran’s Day, Valentine’s Day and an annual Christmas holiday concert. The average attendance for a symphony performance is between 700-1,000. “Our Veteran’s Day program a couple of years ago was quite well received,” he remembers.

“The chorus was involved, and we had a multi-media component—actors, a narrator, lots of bells and whistles.”

The orchestra draws its personnel from many sources. There are local and regional musicians from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, and a few who travel great distances. “Our tuba principal, for example, lives in New York City. This is a very fertile area for musicians. When we lose players, they are going to better jobs.”

In addition to his duties with the Springfield Symphony, Wilson stays busy as the associate conductor for the Columbus Symphony, principal conductor for the Tulsa Ballet and music director for the Westerville Symphony. He manages the workload through careful planning.

“We are building the calendar for the 2016-2017 season now, and it is always challenging,” he says.

He is also active with the organization’s educational components. “I conduct the Youth Orchestra several times a year and lead the Young People’s Concerts by the SSO. Education is the most important thing that we do.”
He notes that the audience’s musical preferences have changed since his arrival.

“It used to be baroque music, but their taste has evolved,” he says. “Now I think the Romantic period is the most popular.”

Wilson has found a home in the Miami Valley. “I love the community,” he beams. “The support the SSO receives is tremendous, and the orchestra is fabulous as well. We are still going strong together after 13 years and I look forward to many more.”

Can the audience expect any goose bumps or surprises?

“The orchestra and audience are encouraged to come in costume,” Wilson says. “That should be entertaining.”

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra presents Fright Lights 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31 in Kuss Auditorium at the Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 S. Fountain Ave. in Springfield. Tickets range from $27 to $51.For a complete schedule of events, tickets and additional information, please call 937.328.3874 or visit springfieldsym.org.

Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Tim Smith is an award-winning, bestselling author. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Smith at TimSmith@DaytonCityPaper.com

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