Williamson said nocturnal images and metaphors unify the poems. He said he has performed "Serenade" before and said Britten is one of his favorite composers. To prepare, Williamson studies the poetic text.
"I read poetry for pleasure and I find it to be very complementary to my work as a singer and a conductor," he said.
Williamson, music director of the Virginia Chorale, a professional chorus, performed a solo with the MSO for its 2002 performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. He met Lovinsky two years ago when he was in town for "Carmina Burana," at the orchestra's 25th anniversary finale.
A member of the MSO since 1995, Lovinsky also is principal horn of the U.S. Army Band. In that role, he was part of the official escort to President Barack Obama, which led the Inaugural Parade from the U.S. Capitol to the White House reviewing stand.
Lovinsky said he's always wanted to perform Britten's "Serenade," but never had the opportunity. He's glad the chance came later in his career. He said that although he could have played all the notes 10 or 20 years ago, he really wouldn't have understood it.
He also has been reading the poetry - "over and over" - in preparation for his performance. Because he's experiencing painful times in his personal life, he can relate to William Blake's "Elegy," one of the poems in the piece.
"I can feel the pain reading it. I really can put it out as I'm playing," he said.
Both artists have listened to recordings of Britten's work, among them one that features MSO founding Music Director Barry Tuckwell on horn. He's playing with tenor Peter Pears, for whom Britten wrote the work, Lovinsky said. "That's a big connection," he said.
"I love making connections," Williamson said. "It brings the piece more to life. It means more to me, and hopefully to the audience."
The final stop on the musical journey will be Ralph Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 2. Schulze said the "London" symphony transports listeners to the streets of the city, giving "a vivid impression of its sights and sounds from dawn to dusk."
If you go ...
WHAT: MasterWorks III: "British Serenade"
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 15
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., Hagerstown
COST: Tickets cost $22 to $49 for adults; and $12 to $25 for children 12 and younger and for full-time students.
CONTACT: Tickets are available online at www.marylandsymphony.org, by calling 301-797-4000, and at the MSO box office. Tickets will be available at The Maryland Theatre from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Full-time student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available beginning 90 minutes before the performance for $5, cash only.
MORE: Music Director and Conductor Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program's music and composers one hour before Saturday and Sunday's performances during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders. For information and to listen to selections from the weekend program, go to the MSO Web site.