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Women's voices are heard in orchestra's performance

November 17, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Fall was in the air, and The Maryland Theatre was filled with women's voices Sunday afternoon as the Maryland Symphony Orchestra presented the second MasterWorks program of its 22nd season.

No one sang, but women were well represented in the music performed. Women - Cindy McTee and Melinda Wagner - wrote the afternoon's first two works. The featured soloist was a woman, the conductor is a woman, and "Scheherazade" was influenced by a woman in literature.

"There is a feminine sensibility in this music," said MSO Music Director Elizabeth Schulze during Prelude, the preconcert discussion.

But it's about all human experience, she added.

McTee's "Circuits," just several minutes long, was written around 1990. The piece is highly energetic with jazz elements and includes "playful manipulation," according to the composer's description included in the program notes.

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Schulze mentioned that McTee is a race-car driver, and added that Wagner, who composed the afternoon's second selection, the Pulitzer-Prizing winning Concerto for Flute, Strings and Percussion, included words that are descriptive of emotion in her score - "conspiratorial, distress, sad" - something composers typically don't do.

"I think that most great composers write from their experience," she said.

The orchestra's principal flute, Frances Lapp Averitt, talked and played sample passages of the Wagner piece before the concerto began.

She sang "hello" and "Mayday" to illustrate musical themes that would be heard. She spoke of the work's vivid colors and "magical, musical moments," then took up her flute to create them.

"Very good, very different, very energetic," said Charlie Howell of the two contemporary compositions. He and his wife, Carol, who live in Williamsport, have held season tickets for six years.

"It's really good," said Jay Holliman, 10, who was attending his first MSO performance. A fifth-grader at the Country Day School in Charles Town, W.Va., Jay plays piano and flute.

What did he think of Averitt's solo on Wagner's concerto?

"That was really good," he said with an appreciative roll of his eyes.

His mother, Dianne Holliman, admitted that she doesn't like some of the "new stuff," but she doesn't mind being exposed to work she hasn't heard.

"Beethoven's wonderful, but it's nice to hear something new," she said.

Terry and Jean Miller, charter subscribers to the symphony, recently moved from Hagerstown to Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

"It's not my kind of music," Terry Miller said of the afternoon's first two selections, part of the program titled "Women's Voices."

His wife doesn't mind that the orchestra performs new work.

"I don't want to hear the same thing over and over," she said.

"We love Elizabeth," she added.

The second half of the program featured Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade," completed in 1888. The composer based his music on the stories known as "The Arabian Nights" or "The Thousand and One Nights."

The woman's voice in this work, that of the storyteller, Scheherazade, was brought to life in the violin solos of MSO Concertmaster Leonid Sushansky.

"Well done," said Hagerstown resident and piano teacher Cinda Perry.

The audience agreed, rising for a prolonged standing ovation.

"I loved it," said Charlie Howell. "I love to watch her direct," he said of Schulze.

Terry Miller grinned as he applauded.

"My kind of music," he said.

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