This week, the newly christened West Texas Symphony will begin its new era with a concert at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10 at Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
This weekend’s concert will not only mark the first performance for the symphony since changing its name from the Midland Odessa Symphony Chorale over the summer, but it’ll also be the start of the diamond anniversary season as the symphony celebrates 60 years.
“We’re really excited,” said West Texas Symphony Conductor Gary Lewis. “It’s always fun to be embarking on a new season, especially this one being our 60th anniversary season. We couldn’t be more excited. We have a great series of programs playing throughout the year.”
West Texas Symphony Executive Director Ethan Willis talked about what this upcoming season means.
“We’re really excited,” Willis said. “The past few years have been quite a challenge when it comes to mitigating some of the effects of the pandemic and to come out to this season while we’re still remaining cautious and to have a new name and a big concert season planned, it’s an exciting year. There’s a bunch to be thankful for and we’re just excited to hit the ground running and keep up the momentum.”
There will be eight total shows this season by the West Texas Symphony. All performances will take place at the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
This weekend’s concert will present a timeless, local favorite as well as a new selection.
The night will begin with Kevin Day’s Blue Hour Skyline.
“I’m really excited about bringing some of his music to the stage,” Lewis said. “It’s really fun to listen to and has some jazz elements. It should be a lot of fun.”
A Texas native who hails from Dallas, Day is considered one of the brightest young stars in contemporary classical music.
His eclectic style includes a mix of contemporary, classic, jazz and other genres.
“We’ll be featuring new music in that show,” Willis said. “…That kind of lays the groundwork for what this season will look like.”
Blue Hour Skyline is a symphony orchestra composition that depicts a city that comes alive once the “blue hour” approaches.
The “blue hour” often refers to the darker stages of evening twilight, when the skyline transitions from day and becomes fully night.
The second half of the performance will feature Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1. The piece, known as “Titan,” was composed in the late 1880s, however, Mahler continued to revise the work over a span of 15 years into its final form.
It is considered one of his most popular pieces.
“His music is just so epic,” Lewis said of Mahler. “His symphonies are so epic in scope and the power that they communicate. It’s kind of like the meaning of life in 15 minutes. It’s really amazing and it’s just a great challenge for the orchestra because of the technical challenge and the artistic challenge and he writes for a large orchestra. We’ll have a lot of musicians on the stage. There’s nothing more exciting than playing a Mahler symphony. I can’t wait to share it with the orchestra and share it with our patrons as well.”
This week’s concert is part of the West Texas Symphony’s Masterworks Series.
The next concert in the Masterworks Series will be Nov. 5 and feature Fanfare for Amazing Grace and Violin Concerto and Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 with Fiona Shea on violin.
“I’m excited because we haven’t played any Sibelius in a long time, so I’m really excited about bringing that,” Lewis said. “I’m excited about all of our soloists this season, starting with a young violinist Fiona Shea who I’ve known for most of her life. She’s killing it out there and having a great career.”
On Feb. 4, 2023, the West Texas Symphony will feature WTS Spotlight with principal bassoonist Phillip Hill. That concert will feature Bassoon Concerto in F Major, Op. 75 by Maria Von Weber and Symphony No. 104 by Joseph Haydn.
The Rachmaninoff concert will take place April 15 and feature Caroline Hong on piano.
“She’s an incredible pianist and our patrons will love listening to her,” Lewis said.
The symphony will also be doing its Pops and Family Series once again with the first one taking place Oct. 8 with the band Asleep at the Wheel coming back.
“I can’t remember a concert where I had more fun conducting than Asleep at the Wheel, the last time they were here,” Lewis said. “They’re such a favorite of our patrons.”
Sounds of the Season will take place Dec. 3 which is the annual Christmas concert, featuring the symphony orchestra, chamber ensembles and choral groups.
The next performance in the Pops and Family Series will be Brad Leali, Saxophone on March 4.
The season will conclude with Back to the Future in Concert on May 20.
That performance will include the movie on a large hi-definition screen with a full symphony orchestra performing Alan Silverstri’s musical score live in-sync with the movie.
“Everything features something new and something that we’ve done,” Willis said. “We’ve planned this season for a big celebration, so you’re going to love any of these that you come to.”
The symphony features a few new faces this year and others who are now permanent members.
Violist Conrad Sclar returns after what Willis called the “probation period.”
“When you get a job with our orchestra, you’re kind of on a year probation,” Willis said. “Then after a year, that probation is hopefully lifted. Sclar, who joined us last year, is now officially our principal violist with the symphony. He also teaches at University of Texas of the Permian Basin as well. He’s great. He comes to us from Colorado and has family here in Texas. We’re excited to have him with us.”
Lyndsay Eiben is also back with the probation status removed and is now the principal flutist.
One of the new faces in the orchestra is principal cellist Suyeon Kim.
Arturo Galvan is also new this year as the principal tubist.
Principal trombonist Stewart Rhodes is another new face.
“Everyone’s coming in here and getting comfortable,” Willis said.
Willis talked about how the symphony is pulling all the stops out for this year’s performances.
“My role as director is to always be a good steward of the money that’s donated to us,” Willis said. “But we know that for our 60th celebration and for the brand change, that people want a good show. I hope they feel that this season is a very good show. … We hope more people do that and realize that we’re here and we’re for Midland-Odessa community and the greater West Texas area.”
If you go
- What: Your West Texas Symphony concert.
- When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 10.
- Where: Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.
- Where to purchase tickets: tinyurl.com/mryy3hkh