The National Repertory Orchestra opening concert for its 54th season will be held at the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center on Saturday.
“Summon the Heroes,” by John Williams, was composed as the theme music for the NBC 1996 Atlanta Olympics. With its bold brass fanfares and triumphant drumbeats, the piece opens the season with a bang.
Next, the audience will hear harpist Shelly (Xiao) Du perform Ginastera’s Concerto for Harp, Opus 25. Exceptionally challenging for the performer, the piece is not your average angelic harp music; it is filled with percussive, dance-like music, including the performer drumming on her harp, and finishes with a show-stopping third movement.
Du is a recent graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, where she studied under the tutelage of Yolanda Kondonassis. She is a winner of the American Harp Society Anne Adams Award, the CIM Concerto Competition, the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award and a finalist in the ASTA National Solo Competition. Du has participated in the Texas Music Festival, the National Orchestral Institute and the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 will close the concert. Douglas Adams, CEO of the NRO, describes the famous symphony as “a kind of redemption” for Rachmaninoff, whose first symphony was a complete disaster. The famous composer, conductor and pianist soon prevailed, however; his second symphony, when premiered in 1908, was a giant success.
Leading the orchestra is maestro Carl Topilow, who has dedicated his summers to the NRO as its music director for more than 30 years. Topilow is an internationally recognized educator, conductor and performer. Serving as conductor and director of the orchestral program at Cleveland Institute, he is also the founding conductor of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra — where he is often seen performing and conducting with his trademark red clarinet — as well as the music director and conductor of the Firelands Symphony Orchestra in Sandusky, Ohio. Now in his 36th year as music director of the NRO, Topilow has played an invaluable role in providing musicians with a stepping-stone to professional careers.
Selected from an auditioning crop of 800, this year’s 88 National Repertory Orchestra musicians come from eight countries and 23 states. During the NRO’s eight-week season, these musicians will perform approximately 30 events, from ticketed season concerts to free community events such as the Breckenridge Theater’s “Free Brown Bag Lunch Series.” To put in perspective just how talented they are, a full-time orchestra also performs about 30 concerts — in a nine-month season.
Bob & Nancy Follett, High Country Healthcare and Friends of Bill Houlton are sponsoring this concert. The Ginastera Harp Concerto is dedicated to the memory of Bill Houlton, a longtime supporter of the NRO who passed away on Feb. 8.
Amy Skjerseth is the marketing and public relations intern with the National Repertory Orchestra.