By KAYLA PONGRAC
Our Town Correspondent
The Johnstown Symphony Orchestra’s second performance of the 2016-2017 subscription season, “A New Era,” will take place Nov. 12 with a concert titled “A New Musical World.”
The concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m., will be held at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, located on the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown campus in Richland Township. Symphony members are to perform Dvorak Symphony No. 9 “From the New World,” which orchestra music director and Maestro James Blachly described as “the most famous and most-performed symphony composed in the United States.”
Antonín Leopold Dvorak, who lived in America during the 1890s, composed the symphony that reflected America as he experienced it, and the symphony inspired fellow composer William Grant Still to create “Poem for Orchestra,” which will also be performed that evening.
In addition, orchestra musicians will perform Johannes Brahms’ “Variations on a Theme of Haydn.” Brahms helped to launch Dvorak’s career, and the pair could be described as lifelong friends.
Blachly said that he chose the musical selections carefully, and all three selections have “fascinating connections.”
“This program deals with two fundamental concepts/ideas: What is American music? And how do composers inspire each other? Brahms and Dvorak were friends,” Blachly said. “They had a very strong professional friendship. Dvorak was eight years younger, and Brahms supported his career substantially, helping him find his first publisher and promoting his orchestra works across the continent.
“Dvorak, then, inspired and helped to create the atmosphere that helped William Grant Still become the composer he was. When Dvorak was the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America, they offered scholarships to African-American students. Through that, Dvorak was making this very interesting statement that the music of America should be based on the Native American and the African-American tradition. It was very controversial at the time, but in some ways you could see Dvorak’s influence on the rise of jazz.”
Blachly said that the Brahms piece that the orchestra is performing became “an inspiration for his own later works.”
“He composed his variations and it’s fascinating to see how much his own symphonic writing launched from those variations,” Blachly said.
He encouraged people to come and see what the orchestra is all about, especially if they haven’t already.
“Audience members who have never heard (the orchestra) perform will love this program, and dedicated concert-goers will find this music presented in a new and fascinating way,” he said.
Blachly said he’s thrilled to work with the 73 professional musicians who make up the orchestra.
“I’m so excited to share the new sound of the Johnstown symphony with our growing audience,” he said. “The professional musicians of the (orchestra) are sounding better than ever. This concert will be ravishingly beautiful and powerful. This is the perfect concert to come to if you’ve never heard an orchestra before, or if you’ve never heard the (orchestra) before, or if you haven’t heard the (orchestra) in a while.”
Special offers will be given to first time audience members. More information can be found on the orchestra’s official website.
In order for audience members to gain a greater understanding of the music, Blachly will offer a pre-concert talk beginning at 6:30 p.m. All audience members are invited to attend.
Following the concert, Blachly and members of the orchestra will engage in conversation with audience members. Audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions about the music in an informal setting.
“A New Musical World” is sponsored by Picking Family Fund.
For more information about this show, visit johnstownsymphony.org or call a staff member at 814-535-6738. Blachly also has a Twitter account, @JSOMaestro, for those who wish to contact him directly.
Tickets for the show can be purchased online by visiting www.upjarts.org or by calling the arts center box office at 814-269-7200 during regular box office hours.