SoNA opener includes Meyer, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky

SoNA opener includes Meyer, Shostakovich, Mussorgsky

“Go BIG or Go HOME.” That’s the title of a composition by Jessica Meyer, one of the most-performed orchestral composers of her generation. It blends, she promises, “hints of funk, bluegrass, and Latin … driven by groove, virtuosity, and moments of improvisation.”

It might also be the motto for the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas’ 2022-23 season, which opens Oct. 29. The concert, titled “Imagine Big,” includes not only Meyer’s adaptation of the last movement of her string quartet “Get into the NOW” but also Dmitri Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 featuring cellist Julian Schwarz and Modest Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition.”

“This season we ‘imagine big’ and present music that reflects our bold vision for our orchestra and the wide possibilities of orchestral music,” says SoNA Music Director Paul Haas. “We represent the past and present of our artform through time-honored works by Shostakovich and Mussorgsky, and so much more. We also show the powerful future of our artform through works by contemporary visionaries like Jessica Meyer, and through collaborations with guest artists like Julian Schwarz that also point to our artform’s bright future.”

The performance is the first of six on this year’s slate, an increase of one over the usual number. The addition, a Battle of the Bands April 8, brings SoNA and the Fayetteville Jazz Collective together, alternating between pieces played by the jazz band, pieces played by the orchestra, and then pieces played together, for “an evening of genre-defying music that will be enjoyed by a wide variety of music lovers.”

“After hearing from many audience and community members and carefully considering feedback — we heard the strong desire for additional non-classical, ‘pops’ concerts,” says D. Riley Nicholson, SoNA’s executive director. “This season, that addition takes the form of Battle of the Bands, and we look forward to continuing to take a wide perspective of orchestral music to attract a wider audience. An equally important part of our season is our classical and contemporary programming, so rather than replacing one of our mainstage shows, we instead wanted a thoughtful addition to our season.

“Northwest Arkansas is quickly growing and is a community that is supportive of the arts, so we believe there is an appetite for more music by SoNA. We’re ready to serve up more fantastic music of all flavors!”

Meyer’s composition includes many of those eclectic elements, influenced by fate and her childhood on Long Island — where her dad was a folk/blues guitarist and singer “when he was not at his day job.”

“When I was little, he used to blare Beethoven symphonies and other classical music on his big stereo in the basement — it was the ’70s — that made the ceiling shake,” Meyer remembers about her father. “One year I got a guitar for Christmas, but I wanted to play the violin. There were great music programs in the public schools, but when I asked for a violin they said they ran out. But because I am tall they gave me a viola. That is the instrument I play and that got me into Juilliard!

“I remember getting goosebumps when playing ‘Memory’ from the musical ‘Cats’ in fourth-grade orchestra, and I pretty much knew then that I wanted to spend the rest of my life in music,” she adds. “I did dabble a bit in writing music in high school, but I stopped and did not pursue that again until I was 40 — and now it is my main vocation.”

“Go BIG or Go HOME” comes from the last movement of a string quartet that I created for the Nu Deco Ensemble in Miami.

“When the opportunity came up for me to make this arrangement, I wanted to both showcase what the group can uniquely do while also writing in a way that captures the spirit of what Miami inherently is,” Meyer explains. In addition to giving members of the orchestra a chance to improvise and “put their own personal signature on the piece,” it is “most importantly, written from a place of self-realization, empowerment, and celebration of how joyous life can be. Who says going to an orchestra concert can’t be fun?”



Symphony of Northwest Arkansas:

‘Imagine Big’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29

WHERE — Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville

COST — $36 & up

INFO — or 443-5600

BONUS — Ticketholders are invited to come at 6:30 p.m. for a pre-show Creative Conversation with SoNA Music Director Paul Haas and Principal Tuba Ryan Robinson.

Categories: Music