Manchester Symphony Orchestra concert explores New England and beyond

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
October 30, 2008

MANCHESTER — The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale begins its 49th season on Saturday, Nov. 8, with a concert by the Manchester Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Lewis J. Buckley at Trinity Covenant Church, 300 Hackmatack St., at 7:30 p.m.

Buckley, the orchestra’s music director since 2004, is enthusiastic about the upcoming season.

“I’m really enjoying the fruits of our labors over the past four years,” he says. “The orchestra is playing really well, we have some strong new players, and we have a great set of programs to play.”

This concert continues MSOC’s emphasis on programs that highlight New England ‘s musical heritage. The program’s title work, William Schuman’s “New England Triptych,” was inspired by three hymns written in 18th-century Boston by William Billings.

Billings had no formal musical training and his songs and hymns were a radical departure from European traditions. Schuman wrote: “These three pieces are not a ‘fantasy’ nor ‘variations’ on themes of Billings , but rather a fusion of styles and musical language.”

Billings was a revolutionary, not only musically, but politically. One of the three hymns Schuman chose is the fiery anthem “Chester “. Billings also founded “singing schools,” teaching music as a way for entire communities to be united and uplifted. That spirit lives on in the MSOC. Buckley observes, “The Manchester Symphony really is a classic example of the journey being as important as the destination. The pleasure we all take in the weekly rehearsals is as important as the concerts themselves.”

A more contemporary local musical talent, violinist Bernard Lurie, will be the soloist for Mozart’s “Violin Concerto No. 3 in G Major.” Lurie, the former concertmaster of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, is now the concertmaster of the Nutmeg Symphony and of the New Britain Symphony Orchestras. While on the faculty of the Hartt School of Music, Lurie performed and traveled throughout the world. He led the Greater Hartford Youth Orchestra on concert tours of Europe and the People’s Republic of China.

Buckley is especially looking forward to conducting the final work on the program, Cesar Frank’s “Symphony in D Minor.” “Quite simply, it’s always been one of my favorite symphonic works,” he says: “It’s a wonderful representation of the romantic symphony, and the audience is going to love it.”

Although Frank is less well-known than his contemporaries Bizet or Saint-Saens, Buckley knows concert-goers will appreciate the symphony’s rich orchestration and lyrical melodies. “Even for people who haven’t heard the piece before, the musical vocabulary is very familiar, so no one will be put off by it. It’s great stuff!”

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students, and free for those under 18.

For more information, call 860-228-2921, e-mail MusicSix [at], or visit the MSOC Web site: