MSO's upcoming concert explores connections between Christian music and the concert hall

March 14, 2012|By KATE COLEMAN |
  • Joseph McIntyre, MSOs principal timpanist, will perform as soloist at this weekends concerts.
Submitted photo

“Sacred Structures,” the fourth Masterworks concert of the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s 30th anniversary season, explores the connections between early Christian music and the music of the concert hall, Music Director Elizabeth Schulze wrote in an email.

Each of the four composers used ancient Christian chant music as a jumping off point in their works on this weekend’s program, she wrote. Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov depicts a sacred ceremony in Russian Easter Festival Overture. Michael Daugherty, inspired by the grand architecture of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York, wrote “Raise the Roof.” “Prayer of St. Gregory” is Alan Hovhaness’ prayer without words, and Ottorino Respighi’s “Church Windows” portrays images in stained-glass windows.

Joseph McIntyre, the MSO’s principal timpanist, will perform as soloist for the Daugherty work.

“It is fitting that we celebrate our 30th anniversary season by featuring one of our own musicians who’s been with the orchestra since the very first season,” Schulze wrote. “Joe McIntyre is one of our most distinguished players. His grace and sensitivity on the timpani are remarkable.”

In a phone interview, McIntyre recalled seeing a Washington Post article about a symphony orchestra forming in Hagerstown. He was 24 when he auditioned in the basement of Machen Music, a music store on Pennsylvania Avenue in Hagerstown.

He won the principal timpani spot and has kept it for 30 years.

McIntyre grew up in Silver Spring, Md., and, in a 2009 interview with this reporter, said he can’t remember a time when music wasn’t part of his life.

His musical career started when he was a kid, a boy soprano singing in his church choir. Summers in Massachusetts, he auditioned and sang with a couple of groups, including the Berkshire Boy Choir. Among highlights was getting to sing a boy-soprano solo for one of the performances of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” the piece commissioned for the 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

McIntyre has been playing drums since he was about 12 years old. After his voice changed, he started pursuing percussion more seriously.

He earned degrees in music performance and music education at the University of Maryland. He performs frequently with the National Symphony Orchestra and has played with several Washington, D.C.-area ensembles. McIntyre also teaches instrumental music part time in Montgomery County Public Schools and percussion, timpani and drum in his Rockville, Md., home.

Despite taking just one composition class in college, McIntyre has had success as a composer.

“The creative process is important to me,” he said.

His orchestral “Salute,” commissioned by the MSO in dedication to founding music director Barry Tuckwell, premiered at The Maryland Theatre in 1998. McIntyre conducted the performance, which featured a horn solo by MSO Principal Horn Joseph Lovinsky.

McIntyre’s Missa Brevis for Chorus, Organ and Percussion had its New York City premiere at Carnegie Hall in 2000, and the MSO debuted his “Ghosts of Antietam” at Antietam National Battlefield in 2009.

McIntyre will be front and center with five kettledrums for “Raise the Roof.” He noted that the composition’s title has a double connotation: Gothic architecture influenced the work; and in American slang, the expression means to make a lot of noise and have fun.

Composed in 2003, Daugherty’s work includes long, expressive melodies — something that doesn’t instantly come to mind with drums. Timpani in different keys and use of their pedals will make melody possible, McIntyre said. He will also be using different tools to strike his instruments — regular mallets, wire brushes, maraca sticks, even bare hands. Latin and rock rhythms are also present in “Raise the Roof.” They remind McIntyre of the “Symphonic Dances” from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story.” Maybe nobody will shout “Mambo!” during the performance, but McIntyre said he wouldn’t be surprised if somebody started a conga line.

Hard hats are optional.

If you go ...                           

WHAT: Maryland Symphony Orchestra presents its Masterworks 4 concert, “Sacred Structures”

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, March 17, and 3 p.m. Sunday, March 18

WHERE: The Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown

COST: Tickets cost $12 to $83 for adults. There is no charge for students in grades one through 12.

Student rush tickets (no reservations accepted) will be available for higher education students for $5 at The Maryland Theatre box office before each performance. Seat selection will be at the discretion of box-office personnel. The Maryland Theatre box office opens 90 minutes prior to MSO concerts.

CONTACT: Tickets may be purchased online at, by phone at 301-797-4000 and in person at the MSO office, 30 W. Washington St., Hagerstown, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday, March 16, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 17.

MORE: Program notes and audio clips of the musical selections are available at www.mary by clicking on “Listen to Program Notes” on the performance page.

AND MORE: Music Director Elizabeth Schulze will talk about the program and composers one hour before Saturday’s and Sunday’s performances during Prelude. The half-hour presentation is free for ticket holders.

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