There is, in orchestral music, a certain stylistic format that often reoccurs. A theme or idea is introduced and then, over the course of the piece’s movements, expanded and expounded upon. It grows and deepens. It offers up unexpected ideas and the beautiful moments that will, over the course of the performance and, should the composer really have his or her groove on, history offer endless opportunities for interpretation and investigation.
That’s what keeps fans returning to the symphony.
And while those fans, old and new, can expect the same sort of experiences from this season’s Symphony Orchestra Augusta performances, I would hazard the educated guess that the same could be said for the season itself.
The initial performance – at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, at First Baptist of Augusta – appears to follow the format expected by the orchestra’s patrons. It will draw from popular repertoire – this time including works by Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Elgar – and presented at the orchestra’s long-time First Baptist home. But already, in that first performance – or comparing the season to a symphony, movement – things will begin to evolve.
After a year of searching, the orchestra will be under the permanent baton of its new musical director, Dirk Meyer, who brings with him his own interpretations and expectations. Even the pieces themselves – Strauss’s technically challenging Don Juan, Tchaikovsky’s unusual orchestra-and-string duel Variations on a Rococo Theme for Cello and Elgar’s famous personality-inspired puzzle box The Enigma Variations – present elements of the unexpected.
And then things really take off.
This is, without exaggeration, a truly historic season for SOA. Not only is the orchestra being led by a new maestro with a real reputation for championing original works – look for a taste of that in the second Symphony Series performance – but after years, decades really, of working to find a home that felt both permanent and appropriate of orchestra music and SOA itself, the symphony will move into the Miller Theater.
The Miller move is, for the Symphony, a very big deal. I have written in the past about what I perceived as problems with performing at First Baptist Church of Augusta, the orchestra’s longtime venue, for what is now referred to as its Symphony Series. It was not built for orchestral performances and, despite amazing effort on the part of SOA, just never felt quite right. Come January, that all changes and the move should prove extraordinarily important not only for SOA, but also the community itself. That venue is shaping up to become one of Augusta’s true jewels.
And the evolution, the building on an established theme, doesn’t end there. Over the course of the 2017-18 season SOA will continue to evolve, expand, grow and deepen just like that theoretical piece of music. This season will feature new works, contemporary works by female composers, a variety of Pops performances, a New Year ribbon cutting and yes, the new maestro’s interpretations of the classical canon from Mozart to the season-ending wrapping big hitter that is Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.
Are expectations high? Absolutely. A lot of time and effort has gone into this season, establishing new artistic leadership and working toward January’s housewarming. But I believe that SOA, an organization with deep roots in the Augusta arts community, is up to the task. This is just the latest great step in its history.
Listen carefully. It should be beautiful.