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VOL. 126 | NO. 40 | Monday, February 28, 2011

GSO Turns 35 by Bringing Home Cellist

JONATHAN DEVIN | Special to The Memphis News

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The Germantown Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its 35th year of providing area musicians with an artistic outlet by bringing home an old friend who struck musical gold.

The Inventions Trio are Marvin Stamm, trumpet, Bill Mays, piano, and Alisa Horn, cello. (Photo: Courtesy of Judy Kirtley)

On Saturday, March 5, at 8 p.m., GSO will perform at the Germantown Performing Arts Centre with The Inventions Trio featuring cellist Alisa Horn, and music commissioned especially for the orchestra, some of which will cross stylistic lines between classical music and jazz.

But wait – isn’t IRIS Orchestra the Germantown symphony?

Coons has fielded that question more than a few times (the answer, by the way, is no) and acknowledges that GSO’s niche in a metro area that has two professional symphonies, numerous orchestral and chamber ensembles, a university symphony and three youth symphonies can get a little blurred. GSO is a community symphony orchestra, meaning its members are volunteers. And though many have master’s degrees in music performance, the majority has nonmusical careers.

“I think GSO provides a way for community members, whether they are professional musicians, high school students, retirees – people from all walks of life – they have this wonderful opportunity to play with an orchestra,” said Diane Coons, past president of GSO who has played violin for the group since 1999.

And that’s an important role in a community full of professionals who do not want to give up their musical skills just because they make their living elsewhere. More importantly, GSO has been able to foster the development of young musicians, particularly through their Young Artists competition, the winners of which get to play a concerto in a fall GSO concert.

One such winner was Horn, a Memphis native who won the 1999 competition. Bolstered by her featured appearance onstage, she went on to study cello performance at the University of Michigan and Northwestern University. Now she plays fulltime on Broadway for the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical “Next to Normal” and has played for various television series including ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.”

She’s also one third of the jazz combo The Inventions Trio, playing with pianist Bill Mays and trumpeter Marvin Stamm. That’s correct: trumpet, cello and piano.

“It’s not what you would typically think about for a trio, but they make an incredible sound,” Coons said. “They’ll take a piece (of classical music) and make jazz arrangements for it.”

Because of their unusual instrumentation, Mays arranges much of the trio’s music, including pops arrangements of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise” orchestrated by Jack Cortner; “Homage to Bill Evans” orchestrated by Jerry Ascione; Alexander Borodin’s “Baubles, Bangles, and Beads” also orchestrated by Cortner; and May’s own work “Fantasy for Cello, Trumpet, and Piano” all of which comprise the second half of the GSO concert.

Before intermission, GSO will perform Don Freund’s “Three Preludes,” a piece composed in honor of GSO’s 30th anniversary in 2006, and Max Bruch’s “Kol Nidrei” a cello concerto based on Hebrew melodies played adagio. Horn will play the solo.

“(Freund)’s preludes were very well received by the orchestra and by our listeners in its premier performance for our 30th anniversary season, and I am looking forward to presenting it again,” said Dr. Ron Vernon, associate dean emeritus at Ole Miss, who conducts GSO.

“Even the devoted fans of The Inventions Trio will not have had the chance to hear them with the accompaniment of a symphony orchestra, and it will be the first time the orchestra has performed with a jazz ensemble like the trio.”

Tickets for the Germantown Symphony Orchestra’s 35th anniversary concert can be purchased for $25 for adults or $12.50 for students and seniors. Visit www.gpaceweb.com or call 751-7500.

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