The Grand Rapids Symphony is thankful this season not only for its new Music Director Marcelo Lehninger, but also for the return of David Lockington, the orchestra’s first Music Director Laureate, on Friday and Saturday, November 18 and 19 in DeVos Performance Hall.
Lockington stepped down as the music director at the end of the 2014-15 season after 16 innovative and memorable seasons with the organization as the longest serving music director in Grand Rapids Symphony history.
Just in time for Thanksgiving, the concert in the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical Series is sure to generate feelings of warmth, reflection, and hope for all. Each piece was carefully chosen with the spirit of the holiday in mind, and it brings together the talents of the Grand Rapids community and special guests.
“I think the arts and music have a possibility to bring people together and to have a shared message of hope,” Lockington said earlier this week in radio interviews with both WGVU-FM (88.5) at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids and with Blue Lake Public Radio WBLU-FM (88.9) and WBLV-FM (90.3) in Grand Rapids and Twin Lake.
A highlight is Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem, which translates as “Grant Us Peace.” Texts and excerpts from the Roman Catholic Latin Mass, the Bible, a political speech decrying war, and the poetry of Walt Whitman all reflect on the destruction and devastation of war, not only on the physical landscape, but on the human spirit.
Despite its somber tones, the work inspires hope for a better future, where people come together empathetically to promote peace and thanksgiving for one another.
“This piece is a wonderful reminder that we are all human, and we have to treat each other with dignity,” said Lockington, who continues to live in Grand Rapids with his wife, violinist Dylana Jenson, and their younger children.
The Grand Rapids Symphony Chorus, directed by Pearl Shangkuan, with the help of soloist soprano Carrie Hennessy and baritone Leon Williams, brings the literature to life.
In light of current events in the world, the selection aims to serve as a reminder that compassion and gratitude must prevail over all.
Jeremy Crosmer, the symphony’s Assistant Principal Cellist, showcases his talent as a composer with the world premiere of his second, art-themed, commissioned work titled Gathering Sunset. The piece is inspired by a painting by famed Grand Rapids painter Mathias Alten titled Gathering Pumpkins at Sunset, which can be seen in the George and Barbara Gordon Gallery at Grand Valley State University’s downtown campus. The couple also commissioned Crosmer to composer the work for the Grand Rapids Symphony to debut.
Alten's painting bursts with rich colors and tones of an autumn sunset as farmers gather the last crops of the season. Inspired by the magnificent feeling the artwork depicts, Crosmer composed a 7-minute long overture, bringing the painting to life through music.
“It’s more about generating the feeling and the warmth – being in that location at that time,” Crosmer said.
The concert begins with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 6 in D major, a piece inspired by music of Dvořák’s native region of Bohemia with a third-movement scherzo cast in the form of a fast, Czech folk dance known as a Furiant.
The Symphony No. 6 sets the tone of the program with an optimistic sensation of gratitude, which is a perfect fit during the season of appreciation for family, friends, and community.
It’s a piece that “is very open and full feeling,” Lockington said. “We wanted a program that would lead us into Thanksgiving.”
Written by Grand Rapids Symphony public relations intern Kathryn Hartel