By Susan Shinn Turner
The Salisbury Symphony joins in the 500th anniversary celebration by performing in the historic St. John’s sanctuary on September 23 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale through the Symphony website and at Seasons Gifts.
In addition to performing Mendelsohn’s Reformation Symphony and JS Bach’s cantata on “A Mighty Fortress,” the symphony will premiere Davis Brown’s Symphony No. 1 in D Major at its September 23 concert. “A milestone of this magnitude deserves a performance of this magnitude,” Pastor Rhodes says. “Mendelsohn’s Reformation Symphony is stunning, and Davis’s composition sits beautifully right next to it.”
Davis, 50, has been composing music for 40 years, and is keyboardist with the 9:27 worship team. He says the first draft of Symphony No. 1 was in celebration of the unification of Germany after the fall of communism in 1990. He
eventually laid the work aside, and got to know the director of a community orchestra in St. Louis, where he was teaching. A professor of political science, he at present is conducting research work for a couple of organizations. He has a PhD in international relations but no formal degree in composition.
“The director asked me to re-orchestrate the piece a little to accommodate the orchestra,” he says. “Later, I thought, why not redraft it entirely as a tribute to the 500th year of the Reformation. It sits very well with a piece already with a German theme. So that is what I did.”
He showed the work to Rob Durocher and then the two of them showed it to Maestro David Hagy as a possibility for the upcoming concert.
“Rob and David agreed to perform the third movement,” Davis says, “which is how it got on the program.”
Like other pieces in the concert, his piece includes Martin Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress.”
“It’s not the main theme,” Davis notes, “but it does appear recognizably in the middle, and then is quoted at the end.”
When composing, Davis says he usually has a pretty good idea of where he wants to go with a piece, constructing it from the beginning to the end. “Sometimes I will write something and it looks like on paper it would work. Then I do a mini-recording and it doesn’t sound right, or it sounds emptier than I thought. So then I tweak the orchestration, changing a note here or there to get the effect I want. But my first path through, I usually get about 97 percent of its final form.”
What makes that possible, he explains, is thinking through a piece before he puts notes on paper — or the computer.
As for the symphony premiere, he says, “obviously it’s going to be exciting. It’s exciting for any composer to have a premiere in the place where he lives. This is the first time that a work of mine has been performed by the Salisbury Symphony. So it’s rather fortuitous.”
For the symphony, it’s a chance for its musicians to leave the concert hall and go out in the community, says James Harvey, executive director of the Salisbury Symphony. “We are honored to be asked to take part in the collaboration with St. John’s. It’s outside our regular season, but it’s a key event in our calendar. St. John’s is a wonderful church that strives to make our community an artistically vibrant place.”
If you’d like to volunteer to help with this exciting event, please call the church office at 704-636-3431