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5 Symphony Sunday questions with Maestro Grant Cooper

Chris Dorst
Maestro Grant Cooper gets into character for this weekend's annual Symphony Sunday event at the University of Charleston. This year's theme is "New York, New York."
WANT TO GO?Symphony Sunday Presented by the West Virginia Symphony League WHERE: University of Charleston riverbank lawnWHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday (Symphony performs at 8 p.m.)COST: FreeINFO: 304-561-3541 or www.wvsymphony.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's a busy week for West Virginia Symphony conductor Grant Cooper. This weekend is the Symphony League's annual Symphony Sunday event, a weekend of activities, food and music that concludes with a performance by the symphony featuring "Symphony Idol" winner Daniel King and a fireworks-filled finale.Cooper is focused on the symphony's 8 p.m. performance Sunday, but as usual, it's not the only thing on his plate. On this particular afternoon, he was just in after speaking the West Virginia Youth Symphony about music and culture in advance of the group's upcoming European summer tour.Between breaths, Maestro Cooper chatted with Gazz caught up about this year's New York-themed Symphony Sunday.Q: What is Symphony Sunday?A: "Symphony Sunday is a Symphony League event. The theme comes from the league itself, and they have to coordinate not just the music but the other events as well. The league president is responsible for nominating a theme. My job is to find music that works with that. "In the case of 'New York, New York,' that's an easy assignment. The music naturally lends itself to the repertoire of the symphony. Other themes have been a little bit more difficult."Q: What do you  mean by "difficult?"A: "Well, for instance, the pirates theme, I found that a little difficult. It's not difficult in thinking of music, but difficult in finding orchestral music. With these themes, not only do you have to find something that's appropriate but something arranged for orchestra."'New York, New York' was easier because we drew a lot from New York City. New York City is something of a music capital of the world with regards to Broadway. It's also a center of much great jazz music."
Q: Symphony Sunday always features fireworks. What's it like performing with them?A: "It's surprisingly easy for us to keep time with all the booms. It helps that we have a real sound stage, I think. I've never been in a situation where I've been deafened by them, but I have been in a situation where they've used live cannons. The amount of sound they make is one thing, but they make the whole stage shake."Q: The symphony plays a lot of music and not everything can be a personal favorite. Are there some songs you like better than others with this show?
A: "I like to kid myself and say I like everything. I really try to psyche myself into thinking that what we're playing is the best piece ever written. You can't think, 'I can't wait to get to the next one because it's my favorite.' Otherwise, you don't enjoy it. I think living in the moment is the goal of any musician."I sound like Pollyanna, but I love to communicate music, and every one of the pieces we play is going to be the favorite of somebody in the audience. It's a real pleasure for me to bring them that and an honor."Q: Is it too soon to wonder what next year's theme is?
A: "I'm pretty sure that the president-in-waiting probably has a theme in mind. That said, last year president, Missy Rubin, had a theme in mind last year, and it wasn't ,New York, New York.,"Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195.Symphony Sunday scheduleMusic stage3 p.m.:  Mountain State Brass Band3:40 p.m.:  Charleston Metro Band4:20 p.m.:  B-Ties5 p.m.:  Brass Band of the Tri-State5:40 p.m.:  Kanawha Valley Community Band6:20 p.m.:  West Virginia Youth Symphony8 p.m.:  West Virginia Symphony Orchestra (featuring a finale with fireworks)Other activities3 p.m.: Kickoff with children's costume parade and lemonade reception3-6 p.m.: Children's activities3 to 8 p.m.: Artisan Tent and Book Nook 4:40 p.m.: Kanawha Kordsmen performance in Artisan Tent 
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