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Musicians brave the heat to premiere music from film

July 06, 2003|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

SHARPSBURG - Too much sun could take an instrument out of tune. A little breeze could whip up a violinist's bow, making the player hit a wrong note.

While the bright sun at Antietam National Battlefield on Saturday afternoon made the day pleasant for concert-goers at the annual Salute To Independence, musicians with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and Hagerstown Choral Arts worried about problems the weather could cause.

But the musicians said they were excited about the first concert performance of music from the score of the Civil War film "Gods and Generals," especially since the film's director and musical composer were going to present the music.

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"I'm waiting for the sun to go down and it's pleasant," said violinist Heather Austin Stone, 30, of Winchester, Va.

Stone said she was already hot because she is pregnant and, in the afternoon sun, "it's miserable."

In addition to making the musicians uncomfortable, the heat was not good for their expensive instruments, some said.

A slight breeze and "you feel like your bow's going to fly away," said lead violinist Leo Sushansky, 33, of Arlington, Va. "It's difficult on the instruments."

"It's a hot day. It's a scorcher," said MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze.

"All of the Stradivariuses have been put away for this one," she said, referring to the priceless violins.

Ginny Slick, 65, of Clear Spring, was singing with Hagerstown Choral Arts. She said the heat had not helped her singing, but there were other problems: "Bugs in your throat aren't good, either."

Still, just after the sound check Saturday afternoon the musicians said they were looking forward to the evening show.

John Frizzell, the composer of the musical score, attended the morning's rehearsal and was also able to give a few pointers, Sushansky said.

"He had a few small suggestions in terms of making it better and, hopefully, he'll like what we did," Sushansky said.

Having the composer there was a big plus, Sushansky said, because that's not usually possible.

"You can't ask Mr. Beethoven what the movement should sound like," Sushansky said.

Slick said she had been practicing with her group since May.

"We've been 'ooh-ing' and 'ah-ing' " over the music, Slick said. "I think it's really pretty."

Frizzell said he like the way things were shaping up.

"They sound wonderful," Frizzell said.

"It's truly - in the non-California sense of the word - awesome," Frizzell said. "To think of what happened here and to think of having the honor of having my music played here ... it's amazing."

Ron Maxwell, who directed "Gods and Generals," said he was pleased to see the crowds coming out.

"When we play the music, it's not about Hollywood. ... It's about the connection of the 1860s people to the people of today," he said.

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