Yuletide with the Symphony


As part of its 39th season, the Central Ohio Symphony performed two identical holiday concerts on Sunday, Dec. 10. The program consisted mainly of tried-and-true Christmas chestnuts by Peter I. Tchaikovsky (“Sleeping Beauty Waltz,” op. 66”), Johann Strauß Sr. (“Radetzky March,” op. 228), Ralph Vaughan Williams (“Fantasia on Greensleeves”), and a medley of orchestral Christmas carol arrangements by Bruce Chase (“Around the World at Christmas Time” and “Christmas Memories”) and David Pugh (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”). For those who want to hear some of the tunes again or for the first time, they are all available on YouTube, performed by various orchestras.

The Lone Raven band was back by popular demand and performed multiple pieces, several of which were supported by the full orchestra. They specialize in Celtic, Gypsy, and other folk music from around the world. Kara Marley Sterling played the fiddle and served as the group’s main vocalist while Elizabeth Blickenstaff excelled on the twin fiddle. Neil Jacobs produced other-worldly sounds on his 12-string guitar that few people thought possible. Craig Markley played multiple instruments, including various six-hole Irish tin whistles (also called penny whistles). These flutes use the diatonic system, which gives the tunes a certain haunting quality. The mesmerizing sorcery of Lone Raven cast a magical spell over the listeners and transported them to another time and space. The bewitching musicianship of each member of the band is spectacular and exhilarating. To learn more about them, visit their website, www.loneraven.com.

Another highlight of the concert was the world premiere of Noah Goulet’s composition, “Welcome Sun.” Goulet is a junior at Delaware’s Hayes High School who has twice been a finalist in the National Young Composers Challenge. This is the first time that one of his pieces was performed by a full, professional orchestra. The young composer has stated in interviews that “Welcome Sun” was inspired by the winter solstice on Dec. 21. Daylight is limited to nine hours, and shadows prevail. The orchestration is dark, thin, and low to reflect the taupe and cold days of winter. However, after the hibernal solstice the days are gradually getting longer again and spring appears on the horizon. The darkness will eventually pass and the sun will rejuvenate the natural world once again by bringing light, warmth, and life. The mood and instrumentation become fuller and brighter until the composition ends in an optimistic major key. The flute plays a prominent role. Rising brightly above all other instruments, it may be said to symbolize the sun and a more hopeful future. The short piece is perfectly tonal and accessible. There is no rousing ending, however. After all, fulfillment is still far off. However, many in the audience gave the promising young composer a standing ovation.

It is certainly not a coincidence that Christian tradition says the Messiah is born at or near the December solstice and that the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah occurs at about the same time. Many religions celebrate light and the enlightenment it represents. Christian and non-Christian groups share the mutual goal of healing and restoration, of achieving harmony and unity. Both believe that Yuletide is a time to be jolly and joyful, despite (or because of) the darkness and evil surrounding us. At the Symphony’s holiday concert, the ancient Celtic and Christian traditions merged to form a new synthesis, full of dynamic synergy that has the power to mend, to sustain, and to transform. In the middle of winter, there is comfort in these primal rituals and rites. The memories last a lifetime.

Delaware is lucky to have a symphony that enjoys the support of the entire community. It receives financial support from the Ohio Arts Council, the City of Delaware, the Ohio Wesleyan University, and — of course — from its patrons, donors, and trustees. Jaime Morales-Matos, a professional trombonist and conductor, continues to inspire as artistic director. But it is the marvelous musicians themselves to whom we owe the greatest debt of gratitude.

Two additional concerts will conclude the 39th season. The main work on the program for March 11 is Gustav Mahler’s Symphony no. 4. The April 28 concert will see the Ohio film premiere of “Moonrise” with astronomer and guest artist Dr. José Francisco Salgado, played to the music of Maurice Ravel’s “Daphnis and Chloé.”

By Thomas K. Wolber

Thomas K. Wolber, Ph.D., teaches foreign languages and literatures at Ohio Wesleyan University. He has an undergraduate degree in music from a German university, plays the piano, and is passionate about classical music. His email address is [email protected].

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