April 1, 2022-Amarillo Symphony: Mason; Mozart; Brahms; and…….”Slava Ukraini!”

This last weekend, the Amarillo Symphony posted several milestones. The first was the appearance of the second of the finalists for the position of conductor, Conner Covington. The second was the introduction of Larry Lang as the new Executive Director. The third was that the Amarillo Symphony joined leading symphonies and national choruses around the world in opening their concerts, in addition to their own national anthems, the anthem of Ukraine.

This hauntingly beautiful and majestic national anthem adorns an equally powerful script. “Ukraine is not yet dead, nor its glory and freedom,” a relevant affirmation of sovereignty for the present crisis.

Go to YouTube Music and scroll through the various performances of this amazing anthem, of which, the chorus and orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera is notably spine tingling.

After the traditional performance of the Star Spangled Banner, the orchestra, with the exception of the cellos remained standing. Conner Covington then announced that the orchestra, signalling support for Ukraine, would perform their national anthem.

The symphony delivered Shche ne Vmerla Ukrainas with a dignity and solemnity worthy of the songs message. The back third of the audience immediately stood, while the balance remained seated. Perhaps these attendees never watched the Olympics.

Regardless, the Amarillo Symphony now takes its place with the major arts organizations of the planet in support of the government and people of Ukraine in their struggle. No longer isolated in the Panhandle of Texas, the Symphony proudly takes its place as a world-class organization producing a world-class musical message! Slava Ukraini!

Col. Larry Lang, Rtd. USAF, was also introduced as the new Executive Director of the symphony. This native Texan brings a stellar set of credentials to the position, including commander of Air Force bands around Washington. In conversation he conveys an effortless urbanity reminiscent of Gen. James “Spider” Marks, a frequent CNN commentator.

Welcome to Amarillo Larry! You’ll find the Panhandle a different universe, but you’ll come to appreciate and wonder at the incredible arts scene that characterizes this unlikely place. The symphony and community are lucky to have you!

Conner Covington, conductor, with Quinn Mason, composer, March 25, 2022

Quinn Mason is a young Dallas-based composer and, according to his web page, “likes to make waves wherever he goes.” Only in his twenties, his works have been performed by many symphonies both here and abroad.

A Joyous Trilogy, composed in 2019 and revised in 2021, garnered for the composer a first place finish at the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York 2020/21 Emerging Composer Competition.

Quinn notes on his website that his motivation in this work was “to put any listener in a good mood!” The first movement, a complex piece entitled Running, has bounce and vivre, punctuated by brass fanfares. Reflection, the second movement, is somber as opposed to sad, overcast by a languorous trombone solo. The pulse quickens in Renewal, accelerating to a musical blossoming of variegated colors and textures.

What a privilege to listen to the creative mind of this outstanding young composer, and to have him present! Hopefully he will continue to provide orchestral works for symphonies around the world for many years!

Ashley Marie Robillard in Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate

From contemporary to classical, another young man’s work that sets the spirit soaring, Mozart’s Exsultate, Jubilate, was written by Wolfgang when only sixteen. The soloist for this concert was a remarkable young female vocalist, Ashley Marie Robillard. Youth was definitely on parade for much of this program.

The work is a lyric’s playground, the analog of a confectioner’s multi-tiered wedding cake. The fourth movement, Alleleuia, especially showcases the soloist’s virtuosity and Ms. Robillard was certainly equal to the challenge.

This is the 125th anniversary of the death of Johannes Brahms, and, in a departure from the youth on the program, the Second Symphony in D was written when Brahms was forty-four! The fourth movement, Allegro con spirito, is a rousing call to action, which begins with an assertive theme and gradually, over nine minutes amplifies into a thunderous conclusion. A standing ovation becomes imperative, and that’s exactly what Conner Covington and the Amarillo Symphony received.

The audience will not soon forget this program, because of its uniqueness and variety. That bodes well for the conductor candidate, who definitely scored a 10!

Again, for Larry Lang: thank you for your service, and we hope you’ll discover serendipitously why we say, Keep Amarillo Artsy! Keep Austin Weird! Keep Lubbock in the Rear View Mirror!

And, after this performance, we also say Slava Ukraini!

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