The Maryland Symphony Orchestra is hot.
Its 30th anniversary Masterworks series will open with a program that “is sure to set the place on fire musically,” Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email.
The concert will open with the overture to “The Creatures of Prometheus” by Ludwig van Beethoven. In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire from Zeus to benefit humankind. The concert closes with the 1945 version of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Firebird” Suite.
Violinist Nick Kendall will return to The Maryland Theatre to perform “Spontaneous Combustion,” the concerto written for him by Chris Brubeck, son of legendary jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck.
Schulze called Kendall “one of our most beloved guest artists.” The 33-year-old Silver Spring, Md., native performed with the MSO in 2004 and 2006.
Kendall also was in town last month to do an educational residency, according to MSO Executive Director Tamara Nuzzaci Park. Kendall conducted master classes at Smithsburg and North Hagerstown high schools as well as the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. He has the charisma that breaks down perceived barriers to classical music, Park said.
Park and Kendall’s paths have crossed before — in Washington, D.C., at the Kennedy Center and in Philadelphia, where Park held positions with The Philadelphia Orchestra as well as with the Curtis Institute of Music, Kendall’s alma mater.
“Now she’s my boss here at the symphony,” Kendall said in a recent phone interview from Philadelphia. “I applaud the Maryland Symphony for hiring Tammy as a new leader,” he added.
Kendall is a busy man. About 22 weeks of the year are devoted to Time for Three (Tf3), the trio of Kendall and two fellow Curtis alumni — Ranaan Meyer (bass) and Zachary De Pue (violin). The “classically trained garage band,” according to its website at tf3.com/index.php, unites diverse musical genres playing impossible-to-pigeon-hole music with elements of classical, country western, gypsy and jazz.
And, in addition to performing, he travels across the country advocating for the performing arts and demystifying what it is that an arts center or an orchestra does in its community, something he called a “life mission.”
He’ll present an example of this Friday evening during a “Happy Hour” at Hempen Hill BBQ in Hagerstown.
Tf3’s first music video is set to be released via YouTube. It features Kanye West’s “Stronger” and has “strands of anti-bullying attached to it. It’s really cool,” Kendall said.
“It’s a great story to show how believing in yourself, being creative and sticking to your dreams and (believing) it’s OK to be different … you can persevere and win the day,” he said. “We’re excited to be part of that whole message.
Tf3 is in the third year of a three-year residency with the Indianapolis Symphony. “It’s been incredible being part of an orchestra as an artist, kind of getting to know what an orchestra does, how it functions… and just the resources that an orchestra brings to its community is so exciting for me,” Kendall said.
“Spontaneous Combustion” also is exciting for him and promises to be exciting for MSO audiences. There might never have been a piece of music more appropriately named for the artist who inspired and performs it.
Kendall performed the concerto’s world premiere with the Anchorage (Alaska) Symphony Orchestra in October 2007. Its seed came earlier when conductor Randy Fleischer heard Kendall improvise an encore — something he didn’t know the young violinist did. Kendall told him he’d always dreamed of having a piece where he could combine the power and the scope of symphony orchestra writing with open parts for him to improvise and just be in the moment.
Fleischer introduced Kendall to Brubeck. He went to Connecticut, and the pair — Brubeck on keyboard, Kendall on violin — recorded four days of “free, free improvisation.”
“We talked, we brainstormed. It was really like kind of just shutting the world out and being in creative mode. And this piece was born out of it,” he said.
That piece contains a lot of surprises, he said.
Kendall attributes part of who he is as a performer to his upbringing in a musical family that includes his grandfather, John Kendall, pioneer of the Suzuki method in the United States.
“There was always fun. There were always games. There was always joking around. It was always unexpected,” he said.
Brubeck wrote a very intricate part, and so he brings his friend, Gabe Globus-Hoenich, another Curtis graduate, who is a jazz drummer, Kendall said.
Kendall the violinist also will play drums in the concerto’s last movement, because, he said, “I am a drummer.”
“Spontaneous Combustion,” indeed.
If you go ...
WHAT: Masterworks I, with violin soloist Nick Kendall
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23
WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
COST: Tickets range from $15 to $49 for adults and $12 to $25 for children 12 and younger and full-time students. Student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available for $5 at the box office beginning 90 minutes before each performance. Seat selection will be at the discretion of the box office personnel.
CONTACT: Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.marylandsymphony.org, by phone at 301-797-4000 or in person at the MSO office, 30 W. Washington St., downtown Hagerstown, today and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. Season subscriptions still are available.
Tickets also may be purchased at The Maryland Theatre box office from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 to 3 p.m. Sunday.
MORE: Program notes and audio clips of the musical selections are available at www.marylandsymphony.org. Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program and composers one hour before Saturday and Sunday’s performances during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.
EVEN MORE: Nick Kendall and jazz drummer Gabe Globus-Hoenich will play and talk from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 21, during happy hour at Hempen Hill BBQ, 13208 Fountain Head Plaza, Hagerstown.