West Michigan Symphony musicians take front and center

Percussionist Matthew Beck and tubist Clinton McCanless featured as soloists in unusual concert lineup

Muskegon, Michigan, September 21, 2018—If a marimba soloist is rare on the season lineup of most symphony orchestras, a tuba soloist is virtually unheard of. But that’s exactly what’s on the bill for the second concert of West Michigan Symphony’s 2018-2019 Season, to be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 2 in Muskegon’s Frauenthal Center. The concert will feature two of WMS’s own core musicians—Principal Percussion Matthew Beck and Principal Tuba Clinton McCanless—in concertos by Matthew Puts and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Also on the program will be the sparkling, beloved tone poem Scheherazade, by Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The concert is sponsored by Nichols. Blue Lake Public Radio is the media sponsor.

Music Director Scott Speck stated: “The rich and unified sound of the West Michigan Symphony is made up of nearly 100 different components…and I treasure the chance to showcase some of the individual jewels in the WMS jewel box. Clint and Matt are consummate virtuosos on their instruments. Very few concertos have been composed for tuba or marimba, but the two we have chosen are masterpieces. I am thrilled to show our audience up close the mastery and artistry that they can regularly hear from the back of the stage.”

A concerto is a large-scale composition for one or several solo instruments, accompanied by a symphony orchestra. The marimba is a percussion instrument, similar to the xylophone, with bars arranged like the keys on a piano. Beneath the bars are aluminum resonators, suspended pipes which amplify the sound. Marimbists can manipulate four mallets at a time as their hands make the mallets dance across the bars.

The tuba is a Johnny-come-lately to the symphony orchestra, having been introduced in the 1830s and only becoming a standard member of the ensemble in the second half of the 19th century. English composer Vaughan Williams decided to showcase the instrument in a concerto about a hundred years later. “There’s more to the tuba than meets the eye,” said Executive Director Andy Buelow. “With the help of Vaughan Williams, Clint will really make the tuba shine. It has a surprising agility and range, and you can feel as well as hear its lowest notes.”

Scheherazade is an exotic-flavored tone poem, so called because its music is deliberately pictorial and descriptive, with different instruments and melodic themes assigned to specific characters in the story, derived from the Middle Eastern folk tale One Thousand and One Nights. The evil Sultan’s aggressive, domineering theme is played by the basses and other low instruments; Queen Scheherazade is depicted by Concertmaster Jennifer Walvoord in a plaintive recurring melody. Various instruments and groups throughout the orchestra take the lead in the different “tales” of the One Thousand and One Nights, making Scheherazade a virtual “concerto” for the entire orchestra.

Scott Speck will host a “Lunch ‘n Learn” presentation at 1pm on Wednesday, October 31 in The Block, WMS’s alternative performance venue at 360 W. Western Avenue. These events are free and open to the public. Guests are invited to bring their own lunch and enjoy an hour of lively exploration of and discussion about the music on the program.

Single tickets start at $24 for adults, $10 for students. Tickets may be purchased by phone at 231.726.3231, in person at the Frauenthal Box Office at 425 W. Western Avenue, the WMS Ticket Office at 360 W. Western Avenue, or online at westmichigansymphony.org.

Michigan Arts & Culture Council
National Endowment for the Arts