“I hope you will join us for this concert celebrating American music past and present,” said Maestro Robert Moody. “Dvořák came to America in 1890 and inspired the first great generation of American composers. He told them to ‘dig into their own soil’ to find their inspiration, and he wrote his epic New World Symphony to get things started. Over a century later, American composer D. J. Sparr has done just that with his electric guitar concerto. Both of these magnificent pieces showcase what is best about American music.”
Under the baton of Maestro Moody, the concerts will take place on Saturday, January 7 at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, January 8 at 3:00 p.m.; and Tuesday, January 10 at 7:30 p.m. at the Stevens Center of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, 405 West Fourth Street in downtown Winston-Salem. Tickets range from $20 – $67 and are available in advance by calling the Symphony Box Office at 336-464-0145 or online at WSSymphony.org.
The Saturday, January 7 performance is part of the Kicked-Back Classics Series. Kicked-Back Classics concerts are full-length but have a more informal atmosphere and include educational insights from the conductor.
Several pre-concert programs will take place and will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about the upcoming classics concerts:
- In addition to the Classics series concerts, the Symphony will be hosting a special preview event on Thursday, January 5 at 9 p.m. at Heyday Guitars, located at 414 Brookstown Avenue in Winston-Salem. Guest artist D. J. Sparr will be performing an evening of his electric guitar compositions. Sparr will perform solo on his first set and in the second set will be joined by Winston-Salem Symphony Assistant Concertmaster Rebecca Willie on violin. This is a special opportunity to get a taste of the electricity of Sparr’s electric guitar compositions in an intimate and relaxed setting. Admission is free and open to the public. The concert will be livestreamed on the Symphony’s Facebook page.
- Music Lovers’ Luncheon, a fun and informative pre-concert lunch with Maestro Moody and D. J. Sparr will take place Friday, January 6 at noon at 1703 Restaurant, located at 1703 Robinhood Road in Winston-Salem. The luncheon is $20 per person and is a great opportunity to learn more about the concert in a relaxed atmosphere. Reservations are requested for the Music Lovers’ Luncheon and can be made by calling 336.464.0145.
- Musical Morning, a lively and informative pre-concert program featuring guest speaker Dr. David Levy, will take place on Saturday, January 7 at 10 a.m. at Salemtowne Retirement Community, located at 190 Moravian Way in Winston-Salem. This event is free and open to the public and includes light refreshments. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 336. 725.1035, extension 227.
The concerts will open with Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5, which is a favorite with audiences. A true tour de force for the orchestra, this work is one of the late great Romantic symphonies. Sibelius struggled during its composition as he confronted the influence of new modernist forces that were sweeping Europe. Although it underwent several major revisions, the end result is an early 20th-century masterpiece that is beloved by audiences.
D. J. Sparr’s piece Violet Bond: Concerto for Electric Guitar was written in memory of his late great-grandmother, Violet Bond. As Sparr describes it:
“Nanny, as we called her, had a piano in her living room and would sing and play from a hymnal. Across the room was a television, and my favorite show to watch at Nanny’s house was Hee Haw. I would stand in front of the television and pretend to play guitar with a broom, mimicking the moves of Roy Clark and Buck Owens. Perhaps she needed her broom back, but for my fourth birthday, Nanny gave me a ukulele. From this moment on, I was hooked as a “plucked string player” and began guitar lessons a year later, which continued through to my graduate studies.
This is the butterfly effect that led me to a life as a musician, which I treasure. For this reason, I have always wanted to write a composition titled “Violet Bond.” The composition of this piece is not directly related to any of these memories and does not tell a story in a linear fashion. It is more just the “feeling” of all of this that inspired me to write (hopefully) the most beautiful electric guitar concerto yet written. The guitar is presented with a clear tone, but uses electronic effects including delay, pitch shifting, tremolo, and looping effects. These augment the nature of a clean-sounding guitar by enhancing its sonic capabilities without “distorting” the natural sound of the instrument. (I don’t think Nanny would enjoy the idea of me on stage with a heavy-metal guitar blasting everyone’s ears off!).”
The concert closes with Czech composer Antonín Dvořák’s masterpiece Symphony No. 9 (From the New World). Since its first performance on December 16, 1893 in New York City, the “New World” Symphony has captivated audiences around the world. Dvořák’s music was heavily influenced by folk music and the “New World” Symphony is no exception. Inspired by impressions from America, which included the music of African-Americans and Native Americans, his Symphony No. 9 contains many folk-like themes. The piece contains many beautiful moments of orchestration and harmony.
Composer and electric guitar soloist D. J. Sparr (b. 1975) is one of the preeminent composer-performers of his generation. He was the Young American Composer-in-Residence with the California Symphony from 2011–2014 and was Composer-in-Residence with the Richmond Symphony from 2009–2011. His compositions have been commissioned and performed by organizations such as the Houston Grand Opera, North Carolina Opera, and Eighth Blackbird. Recent and upcoming works include Katrina: Concerto for Jazz Guitar and Orchestra (Arkansas Symphony) White Gold (CAM Raleigh, North Carolina Symphony), and On Behalf: A Metaphor (Tribeca New Music Festival). Asheville Lyric Opera is currently developing a touring production of his opera Approaching Ali.
As a sought-after electric guitar soloist, Sparr has performed concertos with the Filarmonica Arturo Toscanini (Parma, Italy), the New World Symphony, Cabrillo Festival of New Music with Marin Alsop, as well as the Symphonies of Alabama, Dayton, and Fort Collins. He has performed solo works at the Smithsonian Institute’s Hirshhorn Museum, Atlas Theater (Washington, DC), Ethos New Music Society (Fredonia, New York) the Flea Theater and Spectrum (New York, New York). His 2016–2017 season culminates at Abbey Roads Studios with the London Symphony and JoAnn Falletta recording composer Kenneth Fuch’s electric guitar concerto Glacier for release on Naxos Records.
Sparr attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a jazz guitar major. He continued honing his compositional craft at the Eastman School of Music (Bachelor of Music) and the University of Michigan (Master of Musical Arts, Doctor of Musical Arts) studying with composers William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, and Augusta Read Thomas.
For a listing of full artist biographies, please visit WSsymphony.org and djsparr.com.
This concert and the Winston-Salem Symphony are sponsored by Season Presenting Sponsor Bell, Davis, & Pitt, P.A.; Classics Presenting Sponsor Wells Fargo The Private Bank; Kicked-Back Classics Series Underwriters Chris & Mike Morykwas; 89.9 FM WDAV Classical Public Radio as well as the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County and the North Carolina Arts Council.
About the Winston-Salem Symphony
The Winston-Salem Symphony, one of the Southeast’s most highly regarded regional orchestras, began its 70th anniversary performance season in September 2016. Under the baton of Music Director Robert Moody, the season includes a special 70th anniversary opening gala concert, Classics and Kicked-Back Classics series, Plugged-In Pops series, Discovery Concerts for Kids, annual performances of Handel’s Messiah, a concert featuring Winston-Salem Symphony and Youth Symphony musicians, holiday concerts, three youth orchestra ensembles, and a multitude of educational and community engagement programs. The Symphony is supported by Season Presenting Sponsor, Bell, Davis & Pitt, P.A. and generous funding from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, the North Carolina Arts Council, and other dedicated sponsors. For more information, visit WSsymphony.org.
# # #