American composers featured at West Michigan Symphony November concert

Muskegon, Michigan, Oct. 7, 2015, — Friday, Nov. 6, West Michigan Symphony continues its 2015-16 concert season led by music director Scott Speck as they present American Music: Old and New at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon.

The concert opens with Mason Bates’ space-age composition, “Mothership.” Written in 2011, “Mothership” blends orchestra and electronica into a single work, imagining the orchestra as a mothership that is ‘docked’ by several visiting soloists. Each instrument offers brief but superlative riffs on the work’s thematic material over action-packed electro-acoustic orchestral figuration.

Next, West Michigan Symphony Principal Clarinetist Jonathan Holden lends his virtuosic flair to the Clarinet Concerto by Aaron Copland. Written during height of Copland’s compositional career, this concerto was commissioned in 1947 by jazz clarinetist and “King of Swing” Benny Goodman. Holden will also appear the following evening, Saturday Nov. 7, in a small ensemble at The Block, the symphony’s smaller performance space in downtown Muskegon.

The second half of the concert is a nod to theatre as the symphony opens with the Samuel Barber’s 1931 Overture to “The School for Scandal.” The Overture, written over 150 years after the 1777 comedy by playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was composed by the 21-year old Barber as a graduation thesis. A voracious reader, this was one of many compositions Barber based on literature. Although it is called the Overture, it is not meant to be a prelude to the play, but a musical reflection of its lively spirit.

Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from the hit musical “West Side Story” wrap up the November concert. “West Side Story” is a 1950s take on the classic Shakespeare play, “Romeo & Juliet” and premiered in 1957. In 1961 Bernstein assembled portions of the score to create the nine-segment Symphonic Dances; which includes references to songs from the musical including “Somewhere,” “Mambo,” and “Cool,” among others.

The Friday, Nov. 6, concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Frauenthal Theater in downtown Muskegon. Ticket prices are $20 to $49; student tickets are $7 and can be purchased by calling the WMS ticket office at 231.726.3231 ext. 223, in person at 360 W. Western Avenue or online at

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts