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November 2023 | Scottish Fantasy

For November, we visit the British Isles and completely dispel the myth that music from the U.K. is staid, stuffy, and soporific.

Tam o’ Shanter is a poem by Robert Burns written in both Scottish and English and published in 1791. In the poem, we meet Tam (Scottish for Thomas) a ne'er-do-well fellow who often drinks with his pals in the local tavern while his long-suffering wife waits at home. On one dark, stormy, inauspicious evening, his wife counsels him not to venture out in the storm, but does Tam listen to his wife’s advice? Nay e’en a bit of it, me laddies! Out he goes to enjoy his liquor. As he is returning home, he sees the church all lit up, not with parishioners, but with witches, warlocks, and all manner of evil creatures dancing with knives and gruesome instruments of medieval torture, while the devil himself is playing the bagpipes. Tam keeps quiet until he sees a wanton, scantily clad witch and shouts, “Well done cutty-sark!” ("cutty-sark"= short night-shirt.) The witches and ghouls immediately lunge after Tam. He spurs his horse to get away, but the witches seem to be almost as fast as Meg, his trusty steed. Tam heads for the river Doon, because everyone knows that witches and ghouls dare not cross a moving stream of water. The lightning flashes, the winds howl, and they are gaining on Tam, getting closer and closer. Just as he reaches the Brig o’ Doon (Bridge over the Doon), they make a final lunge with their knives, but all they manage to get is the horse’s tail. Can you imagine the music of the witches dancing, then chasing the inebriated Tam at break-neck speed? I think you will enjoy this descriptive tone-poem by Malcolm Arnold.

We are proud to present internationally renowned violinist Christopher Collins Lee, who will travel back to the U.S. specifically to bring us Alexander Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. After the raucous rip-roaring overture, this late-romantic work for solo violin provides delightful harmonies that we can wrap around ourselves and luxuriate in their romantic warmth. Mr. Lee has won a Grammy award and is an “Official Musical Ambassador” of the U.S. State Department. In this capacity, he has performed thousands of concerts worldwide. He also has served as concertmaster for a number of orchestras and won top prizes in the Carl Flesch International Competition, the J. S. Bach International Violin Competition, the Lion d’Or given by the French government, a Guggenheim Grant, and a Fulbright Scholarship.

Each of the four movements of the Scottish Fantasy is based on an old Scottish tune. Members of our Chorale, under the direction of LeeAnne Campos, will sing these for us, so you can understand where Bruch found his melodic materials.

The raucous good fun continues in the second half with Edward Elgar. His Overture in London Town is a boisterous and rollicking expedition.

Elgar’s March of the Moghul Emperors is an inexcusable, over the top, bombastic, bloated bloviation commemorating the era of the Raj, England's colonization of India. Listen for the huge brass fanfares supported by the gong, cymbals and drums of our full percussion section.

As a respite from all this frenetic energy, we will present the second movement of Elgar’s Serenade, Opus 20, which functions as a lullaby.

The regal finale will be Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance, March #1, with orchestra and full chorale singing Land of Hope and Glory.

See you at the Symphony!


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