“Season of the Bells” opens this Friday at the Wilmington Grand Opera House.
Bells will be ringing throughout Wilmington’s Grand Opera House on Friday when the Delaware Symphony Orchestra opens its 2015-16 season—the “Season of the Bells”– in Copeland Hall at 7:30 p.m.
The inaugural concert, titled “Remembrance and Redemption”, in memory of the tragedy of 9-11-2001, will open with the contemporary composition “Laconika” by George Tsontakis and Cesar Franck’s rarely performed symphonic poem “Le Chausseur maudit” (“The Accused Hunter”).
The second half of the program will offer Mozart’s “Requiem,” featuring the choral ensemble, Mastersingers of Wilmington, under the direction of David Schelat, with soloists Mary Wilson, soprano, Meg Bragle, mezzo-soprano, Brian Downed, tenor and Grant Youngblood, baritone.
“The Mozart ‘Requiem’ is a perfect selection for the September 11th opening concert of our “Season of the Bells,” says Alan Jordan, the DSO’s newly appointed executive director. “We hope our audience will be moved by the music, including our collaboration with the Mastersingers of Wilmington.”
Additionally, each of the five Classics Concerts of the 2015-16 season will feature the sound of one or more of the “Bells of Remembrance,” a memorial project conceived by Brother David Schlatter to honor his fellow Franciscan, friend and mentor Father Mykhal Judge. Father Judge was chaplain of the New York City Fire Department and the first fatality of the September 11th attacks.
The “Bells of Rememberance” project has since evolved to honor not only those killed in the attacks but those who have yet to be identified at Ground Zero, those killed in the line of duty and on the battlefields of war.
The collection is stored in a warehouse in New Castle, and consists of bells that once hung from church steeples from around the country. They have been refurbished by the McShane Foundry in Baltimore to a like-new condition.
The largest and oldest of the bells, weighing a hefty 5,000 pounds and cast in 1895 in Cincinnati, will be on display on Market Street outside The Grand on the night of the concert. Two of the smaller, tuned bells will be played onstage in the Franck work.
“The bells have been a part of our lives for so long, it’s an honor to have the recognition,” says Brother David. “They add something very poignant to the music.”
Composers have long recognized the power that bells can bring to a piece of music and have incorporated them into many of their masterworks. But for practical purposes what audiences typically hear in performance are bell-like instruments such as tubular bells or brass plates that were brought into the orchestra during the Romantic period.
“Most symphony orchestras don’t have this bell collection in their toy chest, so to have them here is pretty remarkable,” says DSO Principal/Assistant Timpanist William Kerrigan whose long-standing relationship with Brother David helped inspire the season.
DSO Music Director David Amado agrees. “Brother David has done a miraculous thing,” he says. “It’s not everywhere that you have a set of bells like this. They’re just gorgeous and they’re going to lend a whole different dimension to the works that we’re going to play.”
Amado says it was difficult to settle on works that both allowed the bell to express itself to the fullest and fit together in a coherent program. “I think we’ve come up with some really great, great choices,” he says.
In addition to the Franck composition, the Bells of Remembrance will toll in Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” (November 13 & 15), Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique” (February 26 & 28), Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain” (April 1 &3) and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 (May 6).
For a complete listing of the works that are going to be performed this season please visit the Delaware Symphony Orchestra website at http://www.delawaresymphony.org/ .