While concerts and festivals through most of the summer are canceled or postponed, the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra is still going forward with plans for its 2020-2021 season.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WVSO was forced to cancel its spring shows, including the annual Symphony Sunday performance on the lawn of the University of Charleston.
Conductor Lawrence Loh said canceling so many concerts was hard for everyone.
“It was hard on the musicians,” he said. “It was difficult for me. So much of what I do is with other people, and not being able to do what I do has been hard.”
But Loh said the WVSO plans to come back later in the year stronger and bolder than before.
“When we started planning the new season, we wanted it to be absolutely spectacular,” he said. “One of the things we’ve tried to do is pair up the music, do something really recognizable in every program, something everyone can get excited about and then do something adventurous that maybe the audience can fall in love with in the same way, we, the musicians on stage have.”
The upcoming season will include classical standards and some new works.
The season begins Oct. 3 at the Clay Center with the 250th birthday celebration of composer Ludwig Van Beethoven. The show will include the overture to “Egmont,” Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 5” and the iconic “5th Symphony.”
Loh said, “The ‘5th Symphony’ is a piece every conductor loves and fears. There are so many ways to interpret this music and I’m excited to present my way with these musicians.”
In November, it’s a “Celebration of Strings,” featuring Barber’s “Adagio for Strings” and a violin concerto by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez with guest violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.
“It’s literally hot off the presses,” Loh said.
Jan. 9, the symphony returns in 2021 with “Made in America,” a concert showcasing American made music, including Bela Bartok’s “Concerto for Orchestra,” which was written in 1943 by the Hungarian composer after he came to America during World War II, Leonard Bernstein’s “Serenade,” featuring violinist Philippe Quint and a new composition from local composer and West Virginia Public Broadcasting classical music host, Matt Jackfert.
Loh said, “It’s currently untitled. Matt is in the middle of writing it. I’ve only told him how long and what orchestration is available, but it’s very open.”
The conductor said the symphony was excited to see what the young composer came up with.
Feb. 6, the WVSO presents “Romance Abounds,” which features “Finlandia” by Sibelius performed side by side with the West Virginia Youth Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 2,” along with Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No. 6.”
For March 13, it’s “Music from the Harp.”
The concert will include Missy Mazzoli’s “River Rouge Transfiguration,” Mozart’s “Requiem” with the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, and Gliere’s “Harp Concerto” with returning guest harpist Emily Levin.
“We had Emily here for a casual classics show and she made such a huge impression with the orchestra and we wanted to feature her again,” Loh said.
The season will end May 1 with Smetana’s “Vlatava” (the Moldau) from “Ma Vlast,” a flute concerto by Puts, featuring guest Annie Wu and “Symphony No. 5” by Shostakovich.
Along with the Symphonic Series, the WVSO will also offer a companion Pops series.
Oct. 17 is “Broadway Blockbuster,” featuring the music of Broadway.
“That’s a lot of the music we listen to and play around the house,” Loh said. “But I don’t think we’re all that unusual. A lot of families gather around the piano and play Broadway music.”
On Dec. 5, the WVSO presents another “Sounds of the Season,” with returning guest conductor, Michelle Merrill.
Merrill has conducted “Sounds of the Season” three years in a row.
“She’s really kind of made this into a tradition,” Loh said. “The audience loves her.”
Also, Dec. 12, the WVSO will once again partner with the Charleston Ballet for two productions of “The Nutcracker.”
The annual collaboration is not part of the Pops season.
On Feb. 27, it’s “Harry Potter vs. Star Wars,” which includes music from all nine of the “Star Wars” trilogy films, as well as music from “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and music from the different Harry Potter films.
“It’s about 80% John Williams music,” Loh said.
Williams wrote music for all three of the “Star Wars” film trilogies and contributed to “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” He also wrote music for the first three Harry Potter films.
On April 24, the symphony presents “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II,” a concert mixing classical standards with classic Warner Brothers cartoons, like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Loh said this show was rescheduled from two years ago after the conductor scheduled to appear had fallen ill and been unable to make the trip.
“We got a lot of feedback about that show,” he said. “People wanted to see it and we were able to reschedule.”
Loh said the symphony’s announcement is based on hopes that the pandemic and the social distancing practices that come with it will wind down over the weeks and months ahead.
“Obviously, we’re paying attention to what is allowable and what is safe,” he said. “We just didn’t want to postpone indefinitely.”
Subscription packages for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra’s 2020-2021 season go on sale later this week. Prices range from $107 to $560, based on series and seating.
Single tickets go on sale late summer. Single ticket prices will likely range between $13 and $74 based on seating.
For more information, call 304-957-9876 or visit wvsymphony.org.