Lyric Symphony for Orchestra

The Lyric Symphony for Orchestra received the first prize in the 1983 Lancaster Summer Arts Festival Orchestral Competition.  The world premiere performance during the 1983 Lancaster Summer Arts Festival by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Stephen Gunzenhauser at Long’s Park Amphitheater in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This work is published by Seesaw/Subito Music of Verona, New Jersey.

Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 Flutes, 2 Oboes, 2 Bassoons, 4 Horns, 2 T rumpets, 3 Trombones, Timpani, 2 Percussion, Strings.

Performed 7/4/83 by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra, Lancaster, Pennsylvania with Stephen Gunzenhauser as conductor.

Performed 2/11/96 by the Virginia Beach Symphony, Virginia Beach, Virginia, with David Kunkel as conductor.

Performed 4/30/98 by the Richmond Symphony, Richmond, Virginia, with George Manahan as conductor.

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Groups join forces in inspired music making

  • Newspaper: Richmond Times-Dispatch
  • Music Review: Richmond Symphony
  • AT: Ebenezer Baptist Church last night
     There was little space left in the sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church last night.  The Richmond Symphony, the In Harmony Community Chorus, the Richmond Boys Choir and various guests soloists filled a varied bill, pleasing an enthusiatic audience that filled the house.
     Music Director George Manahan led the symphony and choral forces with his accustomed sure hand, leaving not a moment for boredom.
     Four sections of Ulysses Kay’s “Six Dances” found the orchestra’s string section in its usual good form.  There was a jaunty schottische, a lively polka, a promenade containing shades of the folk song “Shenandoah” and a gallop that borrowed from “Skip to Mah Lou.”
     Harvey Stokes’ “A Lyric Symphony” was given a stunning performance by Manahan and the orchestra, which must have pleased the composer, who was in the audience.  Muscular passages employing the full orchestra contrasted with serene measures featuring woodwinds and/or strings, recalling the music of Danish composer Carl Nielson.  Make no mistake, though.  Stokes is very much his own man.
     Another composer who was “in house” was Craig Matthews, who played the piano part in the world premiere of his “Conversations.”  Commissioned by Manahan, this work contains the music of two spirituals that “converse,” utilizing the piano and orchestra for their dialogue.  A rhapsodic introduction sounding much like movie soundtrack music gives way to some real gospel-style piano with the orchestra rocking right along with the soloist.  It really caught on with the audience, bring forth a standing ovation.
     The Richmond Boys Choir is a real asset to this community and deserves the praise it has received locally and nationally.  J.S. Bach’s inspiring “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” was sung with real feeling, excellent blend and understandable diction.  Manahan directed chorus and orchestra, demonstrrating again what a good accompanying ensemble he leads.  Billy Dye, the choir’s regular conductor, took the boys through “Poor Man Lazarus,” which was nicely syncopated and sung with true spiritual feeling.
     Adding to the evening’s variety were two excerpts from Georges Bizet’s “Carmen.”  Manahan’s vast experience with opera was revealed as the combined In Harmony Chorus, the boys chorus and the symphony performed the busy street scene.  Sung in what sounded like idiomatic French, voices and orchestra blended to give a lively and colorful performance of this famous segment of the opera.
     Possibly the most famous aria from “Carmen” is the “Toreador Song,” sung by Escamillo with a brief assist from Carmen.  James Laws was somewhat convincing convincing as the toreador, but he could have used a bit more swagger in his interpretation.  He has a pleasing voice and good French diction, and he understands what he’s singing.  The fact that he’s a gentleman does show, however.  Lara Longsworth’s brief interlude as Carmen displayed a solid mezzo-soprano voice but was given too little to sing to judge her performance.  The chorus returned to sing Roland Carter’s “You Must Have That True Religion,” featuring young Brian Peace as soloist.  Peace’svery high soprano soared above orchestra and chorus, creating a lovely spiritual atmosphere.  He was deservedly applauded by his listeners.
     Barbara Green was soloist with the full choral and orchestral forces in “I Love the Lord He Heard Me Cry.”  She has that real gospel feel that, combined with the voices and instuments at hand, made for a thrilling climax to a evemning of truly inspired music-making.