Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The Beatles tribute band Classical Mystery Tour performs with the Wilmington Symphony March 19 at CFCC.
Two very different symphony concerts will be played at CFCC's Humanities & Fine Arts Center this week, a kind of embarrassment of riches, musically speaking.
The North Carolina Symphony comes to town on St. Patrick's Day with evocations of earth and sky via the imaginations of Antonio Vivaldi, Aaron Jay Kernis and Nico Muhly. Then, our very own Wilmington Symphony Orchestra joins the Classical Mystery Tour on Saturday for the music of -- you guessed it -- The Beatles!
'Seasons' of the N.C. Symphony
Thursday's N.C. Symphony concert, conducted by music director Grant Llewellyn, showcases five of the orchestra's violinists. Elizabeth Phelps, Jacqueline Saed Wolborsky, Dovid Friedlander and Rebekah Binford will each solo in one of the Vivaldi concertos known as “The Four Seasons” -- four of the most famous works of the Baroque period, dating from about 1725. Vivaldi captures in each concerto something of the mood and sound of each season, from spring's fresh greenery to the bite of a winter wind.
Composer Nico Muhly's 2011 composition “Seeing is Believing” provides employment for the fifth soloist, Karen Strittmatter Galvin and a six-string electric violin made especially for this performance by California-based instrument maker John Jordan.
Galvin, herself an assistant concert master with the orchestra and an active proponent of new music, said the biggest challenge in preparing “Seeing is Believing” was mastering an instrument with more than an octave added to the lowest notes playable, requiring reading bass and treble clef, something violinists normally never have to worry about.
“It's a different instrument,” Galvin said. “Playing on six strings is very different than playing on four, never mind playing on an amplified electric instrument and making a beautiful sound.”
From a generation before Muhly comes Kernis' “Musica celestis,” which takes its name from the writings of sixth-century Roman philosopher, scholar, statesman and theologian Boethius, for whom “musica celestis” was the indescribable music played by the gods. Kernis, 56, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer now teaching at Yale University.
“I think it was a brilliant move to play 'The Four Seasons' next to music by (Muhly) and Aaron Jay Kernis,” Galvin said. “They are the new and incredible voices of new music. At one point Vivaldi was new music, and it took some brave souls to play it. And that's what the North Carolina Symphony is doing.”
WSO meets the Beatles
The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra's big pops concert Saturday is an all-ages celebration of music standing the test of time far beyond the brief career of the quartet that produced it. Jim Owen is the founding member of Classical Mystery Tour, a group traveling the country for nearly 20 years bringing the look and the sound of The Beatles to classical music audiences through collaborative concerts with orchestras.
The sound, Owen said, really comes down to the brilliance of the recently deceased Sir George Martin, the producer who helped the Fab Four find their voices as performers and songwriters.
“Martin's classical training came to the fore in the studio,” Owen said. “My goal when we started in 1996 was not to rearrange something you can't top, but to reconstruct it. In order to create this show, our arranger Herman Martin had to transcribe note for note each song from listening to the original recordings.”
The musicians of Classical Mystery Tour also endeavor to inhabit the personas of the Beatles they play. Owen is “John Lennon,” with Tony Kishman as Paul McCartney, David John as George Harrison and Chris Camilleri as Ringo Starr.
“We go through, in costume and in chronological order, the history of The Beatles,” Owen said.
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