The second concert in the Johnson City Symphony Orchestra’s 42nd season brings two returning musicians and two local choirs to the stage on Nov. 5.
Aryn Sweeney, who played with the symphony the last three seasons as principal oboist, and Chih-Long Hu, who performed on piano with the orchestra last February, will join the Milligan College Concert Choir and the King College Symphonic Choir as guest artists under the direction of Robert J. Seebacher, the symphony’s music director and conductor, for the 7:30 p.m. concert in the Mary B. Martin Auditorium of Milligan College’s Seeger Chapel.
Sweeney will perform Eric Ewazen’s “Down a River of Time.” Hu and the choirs will be featured in Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy, Op. 80, Fantasia for Piano, Chorus, and Orchestra.”
Ewazen, one of America’s most prolific modern composers, has written music for a wide range of instrumental combinations. “Down a River of Time,” originally commissioned for oboist Linda Strommen, reflects a journey that encompasses the emotions of losing a loved one — both happy and sad memorie — and focuses on the importance of dreams and ideals. The oboe is uniquely suited to project the deep emotions evoked in the piece, especially those associated with grief. At the end of the piece, the bereaved accepts the loss with hope of happiness in the future and the comfort of memories.
Sweeney, who was on the faculty of East Tennessee State University while she played for the JCSO, is presently a faculty member at Ball State University School of Music and is a member of the Musical Arts Wind Quintet. She has a doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Michigan and has won numerous prizes in international competitions. She has performed with many prominent artists and symphony orchestras, and has given solo recitals throughout the United States and Europe. She has been a member of several established ensembles, including the Chicago Civic Orchestra, Windsor Symphony, Muncie Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Mountains and the American Youth Symphony.
Written at the last minute for an encore to a benefit concert for Beethoven himself, the “Choral Fantasy” opens with the solo piano, which is later joined by the orchestra. The piano comes in again later with a melodic line similar to the “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. This theme is the basis for the variations that follow. The choral text was written by an unidentified author and reflects the change from darkness to light that is characteristic of Beethoven’s style.
Hu remains on the faculty of the music department at ETSU. His honors include awards from many international piano competitions. A native of Taiwan, Hu has performed extensively in Asia, Europe and North America. He has toured as a concerto soloist, recitalist and chamber musician, and has collaborated with many conductors. He received a doctor of musical arts degree in piano performance from the University of Michigan.
Both the Milligan College Concert Choir, under the direction of Noah DeLong, and the King College Symphonic Choir, conducted by W. Patrick Flannagan, have performed before with the JCSO. Both have toured in the United States and in Great Britain. The Milligan choir has sung at the invitation of the President of the United States at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The King choir has performed by invitation at Carnegie Hall, and takes its music to underserved communities in Southern Appalachia.
JCSO’s November concert is sponsored by Fred & Roberta Simerly and Ralph & Deborah Van Brocklin. Concerts are partially funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Free bus service is available from Colonial Hill, leaving at 6:15 p.m.; Maplecrest and Appalachian Christian Village, at 6:30 p.m.; and City Hall, at 6:45 p.m.
Individual concert tickets are $30, $20 for seniors (65+) and $10 for students. Season tickets are still available online at www.jc symphony.com or by calling the symphony office at (423) 926-8742. Tickets for the entire season range from $70 to $120.