As The Mount Vernon Orchestra prepares to open its 2003-2004 season, conductor Ulysses S. James is planning to take the orchestra to new heights.
"I think the season is particularly attractive," said James. "There are two things I want to do this season: I really want to play music of other countries that you don't normally hear, and I want to collaborate with non-white groups in meaningful ways."
Before the season opens, MVO will hold a gala fund-raiser, the first time the orchestra has opted to hold such a fund-raiser. Board members hope not only to raise money, but to increase community awareness of the group.
The gala will be held at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria on Saturday, Sept. 6, featuring violinist Elisabeth Adkins and Edward Newman on the piano. Adkins is the National Symphony Orchestra's Associate Concertmaster, and Newman, her husband, is a concert pianist. Both are volunteering their time for this fund-raiser.
Dan DeVany, general manager of public radio station WETA, will host the gala; he has volunteered his time, and radio station WTOP has been advertising the event as well.
Jay Chadwick, Mount Vernon Orchestra Association president, was instrumental in getting this event going, said James. Not only is Chadwick president of the board, said James, he is also an excellent horn player as well.
"He's one of our horn players and is completely committed to MVO, as well as being committed to performing on the horn. Jay began searching for a way to raise money and started looking for a place," said James.
"It was my idea, but the entire board was pretty collaborative on this event," said Chadwick. "We selected Adkins and Newman because they are our biggest friends who have a lot of draw. They always give their time every year.
"They are wonderful, marvelous people," said James. "I think they're the top in the country."
"Mount Vernon Orchestra is an amazing group and I'm always amazed at how much we can do with a limited budget," said Chadwick. "We wanted to be proactive with a community event to try to offset some of our costs."
IN KEEPING WITH the theme of music from other countries, the October concerts are titled the "Music of Argentina," and feature Astor Piazzolla's "The Four Seasons," with violinist Janice Martin, and "Tangazo." Alberto Ginastera's "Estancia: Ballet Suite," is also on the program, along with a special performance by pianist Maria Dickson, winner of the Concerto Competition, organized by the Women's Committee of the Arlington Symphony.
"This is highly regarded music," said James. December's concerts feature James Kazik's "Classical Overture;" a world premiere of the piece written specifically for MVO and is a world premiere. The program also includes Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K.271 ("Jeunehomme"), with pianist Edward Newman; J.S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" with the combined choruses of NOVA Community Chorus and West Potomac High School; and selections from Handel's "The Messiah."
A couple of months later, "The Music of Azerbaijan" will be on the program for MVO's February concerts, featuring Sultan Hajibeyov's Concerto for Orchestra and Kara Karayev's "The Path of Thunder." There will also be a special performance by violinist Rena Kimura, winner of the Women's Committee of the Arlington Symphony Concerto Competition.
"This is very powerful Western European music," said James. "The reason we can present this is because our assistant concertmaster, Irene Garkavi, is from Azerbaijan."
THE MARCH CONCERTS will feature Alfred Schnitke's Concerto Grosso No. 3, with violinists Marc Rameriz and Olivia Hajioff; Tchaikovsky's "Variations on a Rococco Theme," Op. 33 with cellist John Gevorkian; and a collection of African American sacred songs arranged by Eveleyn Simpson Curenton with NOVA Community Chorus and the combined choirs of Alfred Street Baptist Church and Eastern High School.
There will be a special performance by flutist Kathryn Farnish, winner of the Women's Committee of the Arlington Symphony Concerto Competition.
"We're doing a collaboration that I don't think has been done before," said James. "In addition, we're supporting three competition winners. We're very proud of them."
Closing the season is a collection of French, German and Finnish selections, featuring Jean Francaix's "L'Horlage de Flore (The Flower Clock)" with oboist Mary McClain Georgevich; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 1, Opus 15 in C Major with pianist Roman Lebedev; and Jean Sibelius' Symphony No. 5, Op. 82 in E-flat Major. This final concert will fulfill Jamesí goal of providing music not normally heard.
All concerts (except for the gala) are presented on separate evenings in both Mount Vernon and Alexandria. Information about all the events can be found on their web site, www.mvoa.musictoday.com. For more information call 703-799-8229.