By Katie Vaughn
The Madison Symphony Orchestra opens its 2014–2015 season—and celebrates the tenth anniversary of Overture Center—with Orchestral Splendor. For the second year in a row, music director John DeMain has forgone a guest soloist to kick off the new season, instead placing artistic emphasis on his own musicians. Here, he offers a few insights into the performance and season ahead.
Why have you chosen to open the season with an orchestra-only performance?
Opening a season with an all-orchestral concert has been a tradition with many orchestras. It allows us to throw focus on our amazing musicians who make up the Madison Symphony Orchestra, and this particular concert will feature seven of our principal wind and brass players in a concerto, and our great Sam Hutchison playing the great organ part in the Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3.
How did you approach this concert and how did you choose the music for it?
This concert in my mind is our official celebration of ten momentous years in Overture Hall, and the program was designed to demonstrate the power and majesty of the hall's acoustics, as well as its delicate subtleties. Also, the Klais Organ has been a major addition to our musical experience, and I wanted to remind everyone of what a great gift Pleasant Rowland made to the MSO ten years ago.
What part of this performance are you most looking forward to?
I chose three works that I think the audience will love listening to, and I am looking forward equally to all three.
How does this concert set the tone for the rest of the season?
This concert is technically as well as musically demanding of our musicians, so we leave the starting gate, as it were, at fever pitch, to set the stage for what will be a unique season of firsts for us.
What are the unique strengths of this orchestra?
The orchestra has developed a powerful as well as gorgeous sound. We have so many extraordinary players in the orchestra, are blessed with a wonderful string section, which is the core of a symphony orchestra, and have a great concertmaster in Naha Greenholz.
This month marks ten years of playing at Overture Center. What has the venue meant to you?
Overture Hall has basically transformed our musical lives. I think that is true for both the audience and the players. The sound on the stage is very beautiful, and inspires us to play with more subtlety and imagination. At times, the sound is so powerful that we have to put a rein on ourselves so that we don't overplay the room. Such a great problem to have! And I find it an aesthetically beautiful environment in which to experience great music.
What are your hopes for the next ten years of the MSO?
Well, there is still a lot of great music that we have not yet performed, or haven't performed in recent memory. We seem to attract an exceptionally high caliber of musician whenever we have openings, and so I predict that the orchestra will continue to grow artistically in the coming years. I'm also hoping that our outreach initiatives to develop new audiences will continue to gather strength and momentum. I am particularly pleased with our focus on young adults and teenagers, and our special efforts to make them an ongoing part of our audience. I would like to see all of our myriad partnerships with the community continue to bear fruit. While the concerts we perform in Overture Hall are our primary mission, we must continue to have an impact on our greater Madison community, serving our population in all the ways that music can nurture us in the various stages of our lives, from early childhood training to our last days on the planet. This is why we have a professional symphony orchestra in our community, and to those goals I dedicate my time here as your music director.
Orchestral Splendor takes place September 19–21 at Overture Center. For more information, visit madisonsymphony.org.