The air grows crisp, the leaves are actually starting to change colour and I have finally put away my sandals. This must mean that autumn is upon us.
While I miss the lazy (very hazy) days of summer, the fall is the season that most stimulates my senses: the feel of a cozy sweater, the scent of a juicy apple, the taste of pumpkin pie, the sight of leaves in gorgeous reds and yellows.
When I think of the sound of autumn I turn to music. Autumn signals the time when we move from outdoor arts events and return to our theatres, like flocks of geese heading south. Here in the Okanagan, we are blessed with a cornucopia of concerts: classical to jazz, folk to rock, country to Celtic. There are so many wonderful ways to experience live music in our theatres and clubs. Nature may be using autumn as a sign that we should be heading into hibernation, but as Music Director of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra, autumn is the time that I, along with my OSO colleagues, wake up and get ready to open our new season bringing live orchestral music to our valley.
Deciding what music to play for our Opening Night, I took inspiration from the fall. Country fairs and beautiful idyllic natural scenes are tied into some of our repertoire in a program that we are calling The Three B’s. If you have any experience with classical music, you may have heard this expression. It stands for Bach, Beethoven and Brahms: three of the giants in the history of symphonic repertoire. Even though they never met, given that they lived in different eras, they all took inspiration from nature.
Bach, Johann Sebastian to be specific, was inspired by country dances like many composers in the Baroque era in which he lived. His music is rhythmic and lively, whether depicting a gavotte or a minuet. Focusing on the strings of the orchestra who keep up a steady beat with lovely rustic melodies, it is easy to see that music from a Baroque suite like Bach’s and music from a modern day country fiddler came from the same root: the dance.
Fast-forward a hundred years and we encounter Ludwig van Beethoven, the second of our Three B’s. Beethoven absorbed all of the Classical era rules that he learned from Mozart and Haydn and then went on to do things his way. Imagine a dramatic autumn storm and that will give you some idea of Beethoven’s temperament and his famous fiery nature that often found its way into his music.
However, Beethoven sometimes showed a gentler side and it is this aspect of Beethoven that we find in his Piano Concerto No. 4. Opening with a lyrical solo entry from the piano, Beethoven takes his time building the conversation between piano and orchestra until he unleashes a more typical exuberance. We are all in for a treat with our featured guest artist, pianist Jane Coop on the bench. She has performed on the biggest stages all over the world and is internationally recognized as a fantastic interpreter of Beethoven’s music. In fact, her prowess at the piano is so celebrated that she was awarded the Order of Canada. It will be a joy to share the stage with her.
The third B is for Brahms, Johannes Brahms. This guy wears his heart on his sleeve like so many composers from the Romantic era. His first Serenade opens with the call of the hunting horn and he draws on the beauty of nature and the rustic quality of a harvest dance to create this gorgeous music. If the idea that ‘winter is coming’ makes you dread the cold, Brahms’ music will warm you up like a hot cup of cider.
So this weekend, why don’t you put on a cozy sweater, take a walk through the changing leaves and come and join us for our opening night of the season with music of the Three B’s that will delight all of your senses.
The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra performs The Three B’s Sept. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kelowna Community Theatre, Sept. 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cleland Theatre in Penticton and Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre. Concert Close-Up, a 30-minute chat about the music with Maestro Thomson, is one hour before each show.
Tickets for each performance are available through okanagansymphony.com.