Season opener is all Mahler
For the first time in its 18 year history, the Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra (GCO) will present a concert devoted to the music of a single composer in its opening concert for Music, Gettysburg!, Sunday, September 14th at 4pm.
Under the direction of founding conductor, Norman Nunamaker, the GCO will present —Gustav Mahler – his “Songs of a Wayfarer” and his Symphony No. 4. Baritone Wayne Hill will be the featured soloist in the Songs, and soprano Pamela Cooper-White will perform as soloist for the Symphony. In keeping with one of the objectives to use as many local musicians as soloists and/or members of the local orchestra as possible, the Directors of the GCO are proud to say that both vocalists are Gettysburgians!
Gustav Mahler was “perhaps the greatest conductor/composer of all time,” according to the Director of the GCO, Dr. Norman Nunamaker. “At a very early age, Mahler was hired to direct a small theatre orchestra in the hinterlands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire,” said the director. “His success was so pronounced that he made his way to the most cherished musical position in all of Europe within a short time.” When he was still in his 30’s, he became the Director of the Vienna Opera, a position that also included Directorship of the world renowned Vienna Philharmonic.” Mahler’s performances were universally acknowledged to be outstanding, the best of the best! His conducting responsibilities, however, made it difficult for Mahler to find time to compose; composing was done only during the summer months when orchestras were enjoying vacation time. For this reason, his output of compositions is very small, comprising only nine completed symphonies and a number of song cycles with orchestral accompaniment and other individual songs, also with orchestra. Mahler maintained his position in Vienna until 1897, at which time he was appointed Director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. That position also led to his appointment to Director of the New York Philharmonic, both positions held until his untimely death in 1911 at the age of 51.
The orchestra assembled for the September concert will be the largest orchestra ever to perform in the Seminary Chapel. The Seminary “stage” will be extended forward approximately 6 feet in order to accommodate the musicians. There will be 65 musicians involved with the performance of this Symphony, that, according to Nunamaker, is the shortest and the “smallest” of all of the symphonies, Just short of one hour. The work was written in reverse order, with the last movement being composed first. This is the movement that involves a vocal soloist, the others being strictly instrumental in nature. It, along with Mahler’s previous two symphonies, was strongly influenced by a set of songs written earlier by the composer—the so called “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” or “The Youth’s Magic Horn.”
Both vocal soloists are known to local audiences, having performed many times in many venues in the local community. Baritone Wayne Hill sang in many operas with the Harrisburg Opera Company and most recently was a soloist with concert operatic productions with the Harrisburg Symphony. Wayne has been a member of the St James Choir for decades and has been a “wandering minstrel” for Music, Gettysburg! , performing with pianist Michael Matsinko throughout the region. He has appeared as a vocal soloist on many occasions with the GCO as well. Soprano Pamela Cooper-White has also appeared on many occasions with the local ensemble, singing in performances of Bach’s Magnificat, Kodaly’s Te Deum, and Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate. She has degrees from Harvard University (MM, PhD) and for many years was a soloist with the San Francisco Opera as well as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. Recently, both Wayne and Pamela appeared in a Benefit Concert to raise funds for the renovation of the Seminary Chapel, when they were accompanied by members of the GCO. We are proud that both soloists are “Gettysburgians” and welcome them to this historic musical event.
The Gettysburg Chamber Orchestra is currently in its 18th year and is proud of its record with local musicians. This tradition continues with future concerts featuring soprano Meg Folkemer, clarinetist Colleen Hartung, the members of the Borowsky Trio, all from York Springs, Pennsylvania, and cellist Colin Stokes.
Recently, the Board of Directors announced plans for campaign to permanently endow the GCO so that the GCO will be a sustained as a vital part of our local musical scene. Plans for a Kick-Off Champagne Recital featuring cellist Colin Stokes are in process and will be announced as soon as a definite date has been determined. Readers are invited to watch for this date.
The concert on September 14 opens the 35th season of Music, Gettysburg! featuring local, regional, and internationally known musicians. The September concert is free of charge and all are invited to attend. For further information about the concert, please call 717-334-5508.