“I’m really excited about our final pair of concerts this season!” said Christopher Norton, music director of the Nashville Philharmonic, Music City’s volunteer community orchestra. “There are so many connections to the Nashville community inherent in this program, and it encompasses the Nashville Philharmonic’s commitment to education, outreach, and the advancement of the arts.”
Last week I spoke with Dr. Norton and the soloists who are featured on the upcoming programs on May 7 and May 9, including the winners of the NPO’s 2017 concerto and composition competitions.
* * *
Nashville Philharmonic Orchestra
Christopher Norton, Music Director & Conductor
Saint-Saëns: “Organ” Symphony, No. 3
Joshua Coble, organ
Concerto & Composition Competition Winners:
Maggie Kasinger, violin
Joshua Lindsay, bass-baritone
Tiange Wu, composer
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4
Mussorgsky: Songs and Dances of Death
Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 7 pm
McAfee Concert Hall, Belmont University
2100 Belmont Blvd., Nashville, TN 37212
Tuesday, May 9, 2017 at 7 pm
Brentwood United Methodist Church
309 Franklin Rd., Brentwood, TN 37207
Admission is FREE.
* * *
The last few months have been busy for the NPO – the orchestra held their annual concerto and competition competition in February, performed concerts at East Nashville Magnet High School and Apollo Middle School at the end of that month, and have spent rehearsals since then preparing for the May concerts.
In the midst of all this activity, the Nashville Metro Council recently honored the NPO with a formal proclamation delivered at its April 4 meeting by Councilwoman Vercher and Councilman Withers on the heels of the NPO concerts in their districts. Dr. Norton addressed the Chamber, thanking them for their support and heralding the importance of the arts as Nashville continues to grow.
“The proclamation was so gratifying,” he said, “not only because the Council chose to honor the one hundred volunteers who comprise our organization, but also because it signaled that we were accomplishing our mission of bringing orchestral music to various demographics throughout Nashville.”
The Nashville Philharmonic has performed in 19 of the Davidson County’s 35 districts. Several friends of the NPO were in attendance for the presentation of the proclamation, including NPO musicians, board members, and founder Kelly Corcoran (former Nashville Symphony associate conductor and Nashville Symphony Chorus director, now music director of Intersection).
* * *
The Nashville Philharmonic’s annual Concerto and Composition Competitions were founded in 2010, and are open to amateur musicians of all ages, living or studying in Middle Tennessee.
Chris Norton noted that the NPO’s composition and concerto competitions were initiated by former Nashville Symphony violinist Rebecca Willie, who volunteered her time with the NPO as concertmaster (current NPO concertmasters are Nashville Symphony violinists Denise Baker and Jessica Blackwell).
“The competition was formed originally as a way to provide opportunities to concerto performers in the region and provide the NPO with soloists for our concerts.” Rebecca told me. “It has turned into a very special event for the NPO which is inspiring not only for the students in the region as a performance opportunity, but also for the orchestra members and audiences to be exposed to pieces and instruments that are not frequently featured as concerto performers.”
Adjudicators for this year’s NPO concerto competition included associate conductor Vinay Parameswaran, principal bassoon Julia Harguindey, and associate concertmaster Gerald Greer (all from the Nashville Symphony).
“With an esteemed panel like that and the degree of musical talent we have in Nashville, I was certain they would select outstanding winners.” said Chris. “We’ve had our first rehearsal with Maggie Kasinger and Joshua Lindsay, and their work is indeed stellar…plus, they’re nice as could be!”
16 year old Maggie Kasinger, this year’s winner in the young adult category in the 2017 concerto competition, will be performing the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 on the May concerts.
“My mom always believed that music and academics should together, so she started me on violin when I was 5.” said Maggie. “When I was very little I would take a chopstick and pretend it was a bow, and mimic my older brother who also plays violin.” (Jesse Kasinger won the NPO concerto competition in 2011.)
Maggie learned from her mother at first, and then began her violin studies at Blair School of Music with Seanad Chang. She has studied with Carolyn Huebl at Blair since 2011.
Maggie attended Brevard Music Center’s Summer Institute in 2016, where she was concertmaster of the Brevard Concert Orchestra. “When I started studying the Mozart concerto deeply at Brevard, I became addicted! It is so fun to keep finding more bits and pieces to make my own – each time I play it I have more love and respect.”
Baritone Joshua Lindsay, winner of the adult category, is the first singer to win either category in the NPO concerto competitions. Joshua is a former vocal student of Sharon Mabry, currently studies with Jeffrey Williams, and received a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance in 2016 from Austin Peay State University. He is a former member of the Nashville Symphony Chorus and has been a staff bass in the choir at St. George’s Episcopal Church for the past six years.
This will not be his first performance with the Nashville Philharmonic – Joshua sang the role of Balthazar in a NPO performance of Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors in 2013. He is an aspiring opera singer, and will be attending Harrower Summer Opera Workshop in Atlanta in the summer of 2017, where he will sing the role of Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen.
Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death has captivated Lindsay since he was an undergraduate composition major. It was this piece that led him to do a directed study in Russian diction as part of his graduate work, and culminated in a joint recital of Russian art song and arias, on which Lindsay first performed the cycle.
Nashville composer Conni Ellisor and MTSU Professor Paul Osterfield selected Tiange Wu’s programmatic work Abduction as the winning composition for this year’s competition. Born in China, “Tina” Wu came to the United States to study at Oberlin and is currently working on her Master of Music degree in commercial composition and arranging at Belmont University.
She comes by her craft honestly – Tina’s father Jiaji Wu is a well-known composer of concert music, film, and television scores in China.
“I started singing at 2 and composing when I was about 4 years old.” she said. “My composition career began officially at 14, when I attended the pre-college program for middle school students at the Central Conservatory of Music.” (Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing is China’s leading music school.)
In 2008, a friend gave American composer Lewis Nielson a CD of Tina’s recorded compositions. Nielson, who was visiting China, visited Tina (who was in the hospital at the time) and encouraged her to apply to Oberlin, where he was chair of the composition dpartment. She graduated from Oberlin in 2012.
“It’s such an honor, I feel blessed to have this opportunity!” she said, speaking of the upcoming performance of her work Abduction by the NPO.
“The Orchestra has enjoyed working with Wu and seeing her respond to her music being brought to life.” said Chris Norton. “Her musical language is motivic and tonal with purposeful dissonance and themes ranging from melodious ballad to rhythmically charged counterpoint.”
The second half of the program will feature Camille Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3, otherwise known as the “Organ Symphony”, with organist Joshua Coble. Joshua is adjunct instructor of organ at Belmont University and in 2016, he facilitated the NPO’s performance at Brentwood United Methodist Church, where he is currently an organist intern.
“It is a joy and privilege being able to perform Saint-Seans’ “Organ Symphony” with the Nashville Philharmonic.” he said. “Performing the piece in multiple venues offers me as a musician two completely different musical experiences. Each organ and venue creates a unique combination and personality, adapting and responding to each is part of the reward of being an organist.”
Chris Norton also pointed out Joshua’s unique position as an organist who already knows both of the instruments – at Belmont’s McAfee Concert Hall and at Brentwood UMC – being used for the upcoming May concerts: “We were delighted when Josh agreed to our collaboration,” he said, “particularly given his familiarity with the superb organs at the venues welcoming NPO this series.”
Both of the Nashville Philharmonic’s May 2017 concerts are FREE. These concerts are sponsored by Cornelius and Collins Law Offices in celebration of the 75th anniversary of their firm and in honor of their founder, W. Ovid Collins, Jr., who was a violist in the Nashville Symphony and a founding member of the Nashville Philharmonic.