Friday, August 14, 2009

Tune In Sunday Evening on WITF-TV

Just one of the many things Stuart Malina did during his “summer vacation” was conduct a concert with the Festival Orchestra of Shippensburg University, one of three programs during their 40th Anniversary summer season. The soloist was violinist Joshua Bell who played Max Bruch's 1st Violin Concerto in G Minor. Also on the program was Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor.

That concert – and part of another one, conducted by the orchestra's resident conductor Blaine Shover featuring mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade – was recorded by WITF. That's not surprising: WITF-FM records many concerts throughout the region and broadcasts them on their Sunday evening program, “WITF PRESENTS...” between 7 and 9:00.

But this time, it was recorded by WITF-TV and will be broadcast on television this Sunday evening at 6pm on a special edition of “WITF PRESENTS...” called “LIVE AT LUHRS,” the concert hall on the Shippensburg University campus where the concerts took place.

According to WITF's press-release, Sunday's program is:

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 in E Minor (conducted by Stuart Malina)
Brahms: Alto Rhapsody (with Frederica von Stade; conducted by Blaine Shover)
Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor (with Joshua Bell; conducted by Stuart Malina)

Until recently, the summer festival's orchestra played in the old Memorial Hall before moving into the brand new H. Ric Luhrs Center, a beautiful hall with great acoustics. Shippensburg University professor Blaine Shover, the orchestra's conductor for the past 24 summers, told Ellen Hughes recently that he once whispered something to the orchestra during a performance and was surprised when laughter rippled through the hall: the audience could hear every syllable he said!

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Back in the 1980s, I attended a number of summer concerts at Memorial Hall when Miles Cowdrey was conducting the Shippensburg Festival Orchestra. Soloists usually included musicians from the region and frequently members of the orchestra, like long-time concertmaster John Eaken. I'd heard John perform most of the major concertos over those years – Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, at least one of the Mozart concertos, most likely the Brahms and certainly the Bruch G Minor.

Many of my friends in the Harrisburg Symphony were playing in the orchestra as well and I would attend (being without wheels at that time of my life) with the HSO personnel manager then, Vikki Moore, who often told her non-musician friends she played “third bass” for the Harrisburg Symphony. We had been very close friends going back to our high school days and unfortunately shared a rather wicked sense of humor.

Vikki often took her young daughter Karla with her. There was one concert I remember in particular. Conductor Cowdrey had run into one of those last-minute nightmares when he discovered too late he had forgotten to bring his tux to the hall and had to borrow one of the musician's “spares.” Unfortunately, it was not quite the best fit for him.

This involved a good bit of merriment in the audience as he explained the circumstances from the stage, especially with his sleeves a little long on the wrist. Once the concert had begun and everybody soldiered on, Vikki and I traded a couple of comments we scribbled down on the program, giggling over them as we passed them back and forth. After the second pass, Karla – who was perhaps 5 or 6 years old at the time – leaned over to us and told us very sternly, “Will you two please behave?”