Warren Philharmonic Casts ‘Magic Spells’ Oct. 6

WARREN, Ohio – The Warren Philharmonic Orchestra will open its season with a concert full of musical mischief and mystery.

Led by Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor and music director, the WPO will present “Magic Spells” on Oct. 6 at 3 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 256 Mahoning Ave. NW. Tickets are $25 ($15 for students, free for children under age 13) and can be purchased at the door. 

The program will include Abu Hassan Overture by Carl Maria von Weber, Symphony in D Major by C.P.E. Bach, “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” by Paul Dukas, Witches Music from “Macbeth” by Giuseppe Verdi, “Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Mussorgsky and “Upbeat!” by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. 

Guest performers Erika Walker Duderstadt, mezzo soprano, and Sierra McCorvey and Rebecca Enlow, sopranos, will star in the Verdi piece.

“I invite all to join the fun as these great composers serve up tricks and treats,” said Wyner, who is marking her 20th year with the WPO. “[There is] a broom that works magic, spooky spirits, ghosts, a tale from Arabian Nights and some unexpected surprises.”

Wyner said the pieces are spellbinding, even apart from the stories with which they are associated.

“The music is teeming with ideas,” said Wyner. “There are interweaving themes, dance tunes, mists and swirls of sound, contrasting with glorious dramatic outbursts from the orchestra’s instruments.”

Though some of the pieces have been made famous because of Disney films – “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Night on Bald Mountain” – much of the program is refreshing and new.

“Verdi’s musical brew for ‘Macbeth’s’ witches is intriguingly unexpected,” said Wyner. “And hiding in the program is a secret face-off between J.S. Bach and his second son, Carl Philip Emanuel. The symphony that we will play by the younger Bach simply astonishes with its startling and touching effects, but actually it is his father who has the ‘last word.”

The concert will also include the Ohio premiere of “Upbeat!,” written in 1998 by Pulitzer-prize-winning composer Ellen Taafe Zwilich. In the piece, Zwilich takes themes from one of the senior Bach’s most famous solo violin pieces and scatters them throughout the orchestra sections.

“To hear J.S. Bach skewed in a 20th century musical work is truly an unexpected adventure,” said Wyner. “I think both Bachs would be as astounded as we are.”

After having served as guest conductor a few times, Wyner was hired in 1999 as music director of what was then called the Warren Chamber Orchestra. 

Upon her arrival, she talked with orchestra members and community leaders, and decided it was time to increase the size of the orchestra so I could perform a wider range of music, including masterpieces written for larger orchestral forces.

It was at this time that the name was also changed to embrace the new vision. “Philharmonic,” she said, means “love of harmony” or “love of joining together in harmony.

“We felt the name would help people understand that they are coming to experience a true orchestra,” Wyner said.

She noted that the WPO remains dedicated to educational outreach programs for Warren-area children through concerts and other programs. One such program is the WPO’s annual Art in Music contest, and this year’s winning entries will be on display at the Oct. 6 concert.

Kindergarten through eighth grade students in the Warren City School District were invited to listen to recorded excerpts of the upcoming concert and interpret their experiences with visual artwork. First, second and third place works will be on view at the First Presbyterian Church.

As part of its outreach program, the WPO will also present an instructional concert for area third through eighth grade students at Lakeview High School Auditorium in Cortland on Oct. 4 at 9:15 and 10:40 a.m. The performances are designed to encourage students to discover classical music and the instruments, performers and composers.

Pictured: Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor and music director, Warren Philharmonic Orchestra.

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