Orchestra Spotlight:
National Symphony in West Virginia

Day 1

Monday, April 5, 2019

Down, up, down, up.....not a conductor’s baton, but the highways in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia. Today, April 5th, marks the start of the NSO’s eight-day American Residency in West Virginia. I took this photo in Cumberland MD on my way to Morgantown, WVA. No matter which route you choose to get here, you have to contend with mountain driving. The sweeping vistas are impressive, as are the “steep grade 9%” signs. I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide, and was mildly surprised to see a snowbank a few yards from the sign. Even the record-breaking amounts of snow we got 6 weeks ago are merely a memory now.

Cumberland MD Cumberland MD (click to enlarge)

Today’s weather is certainly the warmest we’ve ever enjoyed at the beginning of a residency. I saw a thermometer along the highway that read 83 degrees, and I noticed that daffodils have nearly finished blooming. Even the magnolias look exhausted from this much heat so early in the season.

A high number of musicians elected to drive their own cars, so we are quite literally gathering here. There is a reception for us this evening, and even a few events. The brass quintet has a chamber music concert, as does the woodwind quintet, and one of our flute players, Aaron Goldman, is giving a master class. No sense in wasting a perfectly good evening off!

We’re using Morgantown as our base for the next few days, with events taking place in this city, as well as in the surrounding communities of Wheeling, Rowlesburg, Fairmont, Kingwood, Preston, Elkins, Mill Creek, Clarksburg, and Marlinton.

Update: Word is filtering through the orchestra about the mining disaster which happened this afternoon near Charleston, WVA.

Day 3

Wednesday, April 7th, Morgantown

Last night the NSO played in Wheeling, about 90 min’s from our hotel in Morgantown. The concert took place in the Century Theater, which was built 81 years ago, in the heyday of the city. The Wheeling Symphony performs in the same hall, but they are a smaller orchestra of about 65 players, and a stage extension had to be built to make enough space for all 100 of us. There isn’t much of a backstage area for this theater, though there were lots of dressing rooms downstairs.

Wheeling WV Suspension Bridge Wheeling WV Suspension Bridge (click to enlarge)

The stagehands couldn’t wrangle our instrument trunks down the narrow staircases, so we found our trunks outside under a tent. Thank goodness it was a warm evening! (what if it had been raining, and in the 50’s, like typical spring weather?). Our residency concert program is Bernstein three dances from On the Town, Mozart's Prague symphony, and Dvorak's 8th.

I actually made two round trips to Wheeling yesterday, since I spoke at the Rotary Club luncheon, along with our executive director, Rita Shapiro, and principal percussionist Tony Ames, who grew up in Wheeling. In spite of the fact that I spent six hours in vehicles yesterday, I was glad to attend the luncheon, because it gave me an opportunity to find out more about Wheeling, and the people who helped the NSO make this Residency a reality.

A few facts: the Wheeling Symphony is mostly made of free-lance players from the Pittsburgh area. They play about 45 concerts a year.

Their conductor, Andre Raphael Smith, commutes from his home base in Philadelphia. Lou Karas, the state-wide coordinator for our residency, also makes her home in Pittsburgh. Lou is the one who told me that in all of WV there is no city larger than 50,000. (Charleston, the capitol, has a population of about 50,000, with 300,000 in its metropolitan area).

Sadly, the other news from yesterday, is that at least 25 miners are dead in the disaster near Charleston. My heart goes out to their families.

Comments (Click to Hide)

CARUTHERS is tireless...for those of us who are stranded in D.C.
crismassine on April 9, 2019 at 12:25 PM
[we love Prague] . . . Seems like the students will mull over CARUTHERS' words . . .
crismassine on April 9, 2019 at 9:18 PM
"I found myself wishing we had a program of several shorter pieces for this audience. An entire Mozart symphony followed by an entire Dvorak symphony might be asking a lot from an audience that's not used to classical concerts." - - Agree. Maybe... Overture, The Marriage of Figaro?
crismassine on April 10, 2019 at 5:44 PM
Glad that there was no slip & fall on the steep stairway or, lock-ins in the ladies' room.
crismassine on April 11, 2019 at 8:46 PM
... indefatiguable CARUTHERS...took us with her to the last day of the tour.
crismassine on April 14, 2019 at 5:02 PM

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