By MATT CRANE
The Starkville-Mississippi State University Symphony Orchestra will open a new year of concerts with its performance of “All That Jazz” Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Starkville.
Symphony conductor Michael Brown said the concert’s first half will feature works by Darius Milhaud and Aaron Copland.
“All of the pieces are the composers’ interpretations of American jazz from the early part of the 20th century,” he said. “The music is very exciting.”
Brown said audiences will be pleased with the selections the symphony has chosen and hopes to make the jazz style looks easy.
“It’s very challenging musically, but it’s beautiful,” he said. “We’re going to make it sound easy even though the music is pretty hard.”
Brown said the concert’s second half will be led by associate director of MSU Bands Clifton Taylor performing three classic big-band numbers.
“We’ll take half of the orchestra and turn them into a Jazz orchestra or big band featuring Doug Thomas and Sheri Falcone,” he said. “Doug is doing some incredible things on the saxophone and the individual parts are so virtuoso. The amount of notes and music Sheri will play on clarinet is worth coming to hear.”
Brown said the evening will conclude with George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” performed in the original theater orchestra version by the composer the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.
“It’s one of the most famous pieces in American music and a tour de force on piano,” he said. “Jackie Edwards-Henry will be our featured piano soloist during ‘Rhapsody.’”
Growing up around the sounds of Jazz, blues and soul during the 1970s in southern Illinois, Edwards-Henry said the Jazz style comes as a second nature.
“I’ve been around that sound my whole life,” she said. “I was anxious for the opportunity to play ‘Rhapsody’ with the original Jazz orchestration.”
Edwards-Henry said the piece is a wonderful challenge for pianists.
“It fits the hand very well and even though it requires a lot of time and work, it’s really a joy,” she said. “The audiences loves it, the players love it. Everyone wins with it.”
Edwards-Henry said in a day and age when larger orchestras are reducing budgets and often closing down, she is grateful the Starkville-MSU Symphony Orchestra continues to provide a wonderful musical outlet for community residents.
“We’re going to keep going and, it’s gotten better and better,” she said. “I look forward to many more wonderful concerts for years to come.”
With a steady audience of at least 1,000 at each concert so far, Brown said the 2012-2013 season has been going extremely well.
“We get better every year and the audiences are more enthusiastic than ever,” he said. “It just keeps notching up and we’re expecting a big crowd Saturday.”