GR Symphony Plays Elgar's Popular Enigma Variations and Other English Music

GR Symphony Plays Elgar's Popular Enigma Variations and Other English Music

British composer Sir Edward Elgar, the very model of an Edwardian English gentleman, may be remembered most for his melody, "Land of Hope and Glory," better known in the United States as "The Graduation March."

But when film composer Hans Zimmer set out to compose the score for the 2017 film Dunkirk, he drew inspiration from Elgar's popular Enigma Variations, a musical work that reaches deep into the British consciousness.

Elgar's set of 14 variations on an original theme includes the most famous variation, the ninth, which is titled "Nimrod." For an important scene in the film depicting the evacuation of British troops from France in May and June in 1940, Zimmer and his colleague Benjamin Wallfisch drew heavily on "Nimrod," going so far as to title the music for the scene "Variation 15," implying a continuation of Elgar's work for the movie score that was nominated for the Oscar for Best Music in a Motion Picture.

Grand Rapids Symphony returns to DeVos Performance Hall on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, with a program titled Elgar's Enigma Variations featuring a performance of Elgar's popular work. British- born conductor David Lockington, Grand Rapids Symphony's Music Director Laureate, returns to DeVos Hall to lead music by three works by British composers for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.

Grand Rapids Symphony's own James Crawford, violinist and concertmaster, will be soloist in William Walton's Concerto for Violin. Guest Artist Sponsored by Edith I. Blodgett Guest Artist Fund.

The program also includes the U.S. premiere of Valley of Vision by contemporary composer Philip Sawyers, a childhood friend of Lockington's.

Lockington, who joined the Grand Rapids Symphony's staff in January 1999, has served the orchestra for 20 years. His 16 years as music director through May 2015 is the longest tenure in the 89-year history of the orchestra. Upon his departure, he was named Music Director Laureate, an honor typically bestowed only upon music directors who have had a long and transformative relationship with an orchestra.

Lockington's legacy includes leading the Grand Rapids Symphony in its critically acclaimed debut in New York City's Carnegie Hall in May 2005 during the orchestra's 75th anniversary season. His five recordings with the orchestra include the CD and DVD Invention & Alchemy, featuring jazz harpist and singer Deborah Henson-Conant, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Classical Crossover Album in 2007.

His tenure includes the creation of the Grand Rapids Symphony's Symphony with Soul, a multicultural community collaboration, which sold out its 18th annual concert in the 2,400-seat DeVos Hall several days in advance of the program on Feb. 16.

He also led LiveArts, a multimedia, multidisciplinary show held in April 2015 that drew more than 7,100 people to the Van Andel Arena. Today, Lockington is music director of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra as well as the Pasadena Symphony, both in California.

GRS Concertmaster Jamie Crawford will be featured soloist in William Walton's Concerto for Violin, a work composed for and premiered by the great Russian-American violinist Jascha Heifetz.

Crawford, who joined the Grand Rapids Symphony 25 years ago in January 1994, has been a featured soloist many times with the orchestra in music such as Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3, Ralph Vaughan Williams' The Lark Ascending and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto.

British composer Philip Sawyers, formerly a violinist with the Royal Opera House Orchestra, Covent Garden, has devoted his energies to composition in recent years. Besides the Grand Rapids Symphony, his music has been performed by the London Mozart Players, the Orquesta Sinfo?nica del Principado de Asturias in Spain, and the Fort Worth, Tucson, Tulsa and Omaha symphony orchestras.

The Grand Rapids Symphony commissioned and premiered Sawyers' symphonic poem, Homage to Kandinsky, to open its 85th season in September 2014. Under Lockington, the Grand Rapids Symphony recorded a CD devoted to Sawyers' works including his Symphonic Music for Strings & Brass, The Gale of Life, and his Symphony No. 1. The CD was released by Nimbus Alliance in 2010.

Tickets for the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series start at $18 and are available at the Grand Rapids Symphony box office, weekdays 9 am - 5 pm at 300 Ottawa Ave. NW, Suite 100, (located across the street from Calder Plaza). Call (616) 454-9451 x 4 to order by phone. (Phone orders will be charged a $2 per ticket service fee, with a $12 maximum).

Tickets are available at the DeVos Place ticket office, weekdays 10 am - 6 pm or on the day of the concert beginning two hours before the performance. Tickets also may be purchased online at

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