The theme of this concert, entitled “Take to the Sky”, centers around the portrayals of bird calls in classical music.
Vaughan Williams’ “Lark Ascending” features a silvery solo violin line fluttering, reaching up ever higher above the orchestra’s hushed, held chord creating an instant atmosphere depicting a lark as ‘he rises and begins to round’.
Completed in 1914, the British composer’s pastoral romance for violin and orchestra is an evocation of the ‘seraphically free’ song of the skylark, inspired by George Meredith’s poem of the same name:
“He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolv’d and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls …”
Ondras said “Lark Ascending” will feature internationally-known violinist Dmitri Berlinsky performing with the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra as a soloist. Berlinsky, professor of violin and artist teacher at the Michigan State University College of Music, has performed in major venues such as Carnegie and Avery Fisher halls in New York, The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory, and Mariinsky Concert Hall.
Other featured music in “Take to the Sky” includes:
Ottorino Respighi – “Gli Uccelli” (The Birds)
According to Ondras, this five-movement work features a dove (La colomba) with a heartfelt oboe melody; the familiar call of the Cuckoo (Il Cucù); the chirpy Hen movement (La gallina), based on the same Rameau harpsichord work (The Hen, or La poule) that inspired St. Saens for his ‘Hens and cockerels’ movement in Carnival of Animals.
Rautavaara – “Cantus Arcticus”
Why imitate birds in music when you can use the real thing?
Rautavaara’s “concerto for birds and orchestra”, as it’s subtitled, uses taped birdsong throughout, taking Respighi’s idea one step further, Ondras explained. The Finnish composer headed off on a field trip to near the Arctic Circle (hence the title) and to the marshlands of Liminka in Northern Finland to record the calls of a whole host of birds. Listening to it is like stepping into an avian paradise, with the melancholy song of the shore larks as unforgettable as the migrating whooper swans. The bird calls are juxtaposed with a lush orchestral score.
Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, 2nd Movement
Violinist, violist, conductor and professor Dr. Eric Lawson has had a varied career in performance and education. Past performances as a conductor, soloist and lecturer have taken him to Austria, Brazil, China, Germany, Romania and Scandinavia. Before returning to his home state of Michigan, he was based in North Dakota where, in addition to serving as a violin instructor at Bismarck State College, Jamestown College, and the University of Mary, he was also concertmaster of the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony Orchestra and established the Bismarck-Mandan Youth Symphony. Other former academic appointments have included Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Central College in Pella, Iowa and the University of North Dakota where he founded the string program and the UND Chamber Orchestra.
Here in Michigan, Dr. Lawson as been very active with the Alpena Symphony Orchestra as its concertmaster, conductor and president of the board. He also performs with many other orchestras in Northern Michigan and participates in the Traverse Symphony as a first violinist, in the Gaylord Symphony as concertmaster and as assistant concertmaster in the Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra.
And finally, in what has been one of the most important experiences of his life outside of music, he also served almost four years as an Alpena County Commissioner, representing Ossineke and Sanborn Townships. In addition to serving as chair of the Salary and Personnel Committee, he also served on the Airport, Ambulance, District Court, Circuit Court Management and Jail Committees. He also represented Alpena County in Gaylord with the Northern Michigan Regional Entity Substance Use Disorder Board and continues to serve on the Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Board. Dr. Lawson resides in Ossineke with his wife and two children.