Washington, D.C --
The March equinox has long been a time of celebration of nature’s rebirth in the Northern Hemisphere. This week the Marine Chamber Orchestra commemorates the arrival of spring with “Naturally Inspired” a concert that will focus on painters, authors, and composers who have shared their most deeply felt impressions of nature’s inspiration through their craft. The free concert is at 2 p.m., Sunday, March 26 at Northern Virginia Community College’s Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center in Alexandria, Va.
Aaron Copland’s Pulitzer Prize-winning composition Appalachian Spring was commissioned by choreographer Martha Graham and well-known arts patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge for a ballet premiered in 1944 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The title, Appalachian Spring, was chosen by Graham, which she borrowed from a poem by Hart Crane and her ballet focused on a springtime celebration as a young pioneer couple reflects on their lives before getting married.
“Copland’s stunning music is the perfect complement to this quaint story, possessing tenderness and strength, conflict and humor, and an inimitable sound-world that has since become widely associated with the traditional American experience,” explains Assistant Director Major Michelle A. Rakers. “The finale of the work extensively uses the Shaker melody known as ‘Simple Gifts,’ but Copland brilliantly wraps the folk song in his own original voice, transforming the familiar music into something significantly more profound.”
Appalachian Spring achieved widespread popularity as an orchestral suite and firmly cemented Copland’s reputation as “Dean of American Music.” The version featured on this program is the 1945 full orchestral suite.
The next piece on the program, Alan Hovhaness’ Fantasy on Japanese Woodprints, is a single-movement concerto for xylophone that reflects on the Japanese art of woodblock printing. Japanese woodblock printing is a traditional art form with some of the earliest examples dating from the eighth century. The water-based inks provide vivid detail and vibrant colors and this piece depicts the delicacy, charm, and vitality characteristic of Japanese pictorial art.
“I first played the piece 25 years ago and remain impressed by the composer’s ability to get such mileage out of a relatively small piece of thematic material,” said Percussionist Staff Sgt. Gerald Novak. “I am also inspired by the freedom granted the performer to explore so many different moods and colors on what can traditionally be a monochromatic instrument.”
Returning to the countryside, the final piece on the program is Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E-flat. Sibelius was deeply spiritual and often drew on nature for his creative energy. For his fiftieth birthday, he was commissioned by the Finnish government to compose his fifth symphony. While composing the piece, Sibelius wrote in his diary: “Today at ten to eleven I saw 16 swans. One of my greatest experiences. Lord God, that beauty!” During the famous “swan theme,” the audience will get a sense of a bevy of swans setting off against the horizon with pairs of French horns tolling over the rustling of the strings.
The concert is free and no tickets are required. Pre-concert music will begin in the lobby at 1:15 p.m. and will feature flute and harp duo.