Canton Symphony Features Local Composer and Music Director, Eric Benjamin, Tonight
Local composer and music director, Eric Benjamin is one of the featured composers in this Sunday's opening night Canton Symphony Orchestra concert. His Marches and Airs will be one of three pieces contributing to the theme of the performance, "Scottish Fantasy." The concert is tonight, October 6 at 7:30pm in Umstattd Performing Arts Hall at McKinley High School.
Born in St. Albans, Vermont, Benjamin graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music. He moved to the northeast Ohio area in 1990 and is currently a resident of Alliance. He has held various assistant conductor and conductor positions with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, Canton Youth Symphony, Dover School District, Alliance Symphony Orchestra, and Tuscarawas Philharmonic - the last two of which he is still director.
Benjamin composed Marches and Airs in 1999 for a Celtic music and dance performance by the Akron Symphony Orchestra. He intertwined several traditional pipe tunes such as Scotland the Brave and Blue Bells of Scotland. The nuance of his composition is the pipes are tuned so that one note (the seventh of the scale) is flat. With that change, the entire composition sounds a bit more wistful.
Benjamin noted, "Some of the other [Scottish] tunes I used were new to me but are all delightful. The Celtic tradition is so melodically rich. The first time I heard the majesticHighland Cathedral, which I worked into the middle of Marches and Airs, I was thrilled. It is one of the great melodies in any musical tradition. Mull of Kintyre was another great melody to work with."
"For much of this piece, I imagined what it would be like to score a Scots-themed movie," continued Benjamin. "The challenge was in contriving music for orchestral instruments that is audible against the sound of even one piper."
Benjamin indicated his biggest challenge was finding something the orchestra would perform given one of the unique characteristics of bagpipes. "Pipes usually play continuously in their sets and stopping and starting them involves alternately filling or emptying the bag so that the drone revs up or winds down like a vacuum cleaner. I did want to give the orchestra an opportunity to make a distinctive contribution beyond being merely an accompaniment, so I wrote some transitions in which the orchestration attempts to cover the drone issue and set the stage for the next entrance of the soloists."
Since Benjamin's piece calls for a bagpipe band, the orchestra invited the Celtic Eagle Pipe Band to perform. Under the direction of Pipe Major Timothy Wiley, members BrIan McElhinney, Kate Wiley, and Rick Schwenning are a local bagpipe band who have performed across the United States and competed at many Highland Games. Ranked the best pipe band in the Ohio Valley and in the top 20 nationally, they will perform onMarches and Airs.
Continuing its legacy as one of the premiere orchestras in the country, performing world-class music with world-class guest artists, this opening concert also features guest violinist William Preucil, Concertmaster of The Cleveland Orchestra. "The Scottish Fantasy" themed concert will feature Preucil performing the Scottish Fantasy by Bruch. The third piece to be performed is the "Scotch Symphony" by Mendelssohn.
Tickets for the concert range from $25-$45. There are senior, student and group discounts available. Dress is casual and the concert is appropriate for ages 8 and older. Tickets and the full concert season schedule are available online atwww.CantonSymphony.org, by calling 330-452-2094, at the box office window located inside the Cultural Center for the Arts (weekdays 10am-2pm), or by walk-up. Some concerts do sell out in advance.
The orchestra has also implemented "Student Rush" pricing this year. Beginning one hour prior to any MasterWorks concert, students may purchase any available ticket for only $10 when they show a valid student ID at the Box Office.
Founded in 1937, the Canton Symphony Orchestra is a fully professional ensemble and organization dedicated to performing concerts that enrich, educate and entertain. Under the direction of Gerhardt Zimmermann, the orchestra performs classical, pops, holiday, and educational programs. Most performances are in Umstattd Performing Arts Hall, 2323 17th Street NW, Canton, Ohio (at McKinley High School across from C.T. Branin Natatorium). Parking at McKinley High School is free. For more information, please visitwww.CantonSymphony.org.