TUPELO • The North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will take audiences on a six-concert trip into 2020, beginning Saturday night.
The NMSO embarks on its 49th season with “Musical Voyages” – three epic adventures wrapped up into one concert. The evening includes a feature performance by viola virtuoso Brett Deubner.
Steven Byess, NMSO’s conductor and music director, hopes the audience is ready for the ride.
“All the pieces are about journeys, voyages somewhere,” he said. “I think it’s a perfect blend of old music and new music, but all linked together with the theme of journeys and voyages. It’s an amazing way to kick off our 49th season.”
The performance starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Link Centre Concert Hall. Tickets are available through the NMSO website.
The voyage takes off with “Odyssey - Overture for Symphony Orchestra,” a piece composed this year by Nicole Buetti, an Oregon resident and member of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra.
Byess, who also conducts the Portland Columbia Symphony, said “Odyssey” will be performed for the first time in the eastern U.S. by the NMSO.
“Most orchestras are performing music that’s 100, 200, 300, even 400 years old,” Byess said. “We’ve made it part of our mission to perform some new music. (Buetti) was formerly a film composer in Hollywood, and she’s created a piece that’s cinematic in scope, a fantastic piece for an orchestra.”
Deubner makes his NMSO debut during the second piece, “Concerto for Viola and Orchestra: The Voyager,” written specifically for Deubner in 2016 by Grammy-award-winning composer Richard Danielpour.
“Brett is one of the most widely performed soloists in the world,” Byess said. “He’s commissioned a lot of composers to write concertos for his instrument and orchestra. ... In the strings section, the least featured instrument is the viola. It’s a rarity our audience will be able to hear.”
“The Voyager,” Byess said, carries on the travel theme of the evening with movement titles such as “The Departure,” “In The Valley of Shadows,” and “The Return.”
“It’s like an explorer that goes out into the world and returns as a more wise and sage traveler,” he said. “Essentially, the music does the same. It starts out simple, but ends with a very complex movement. It’s very entertaining and unusual to have the viola soloist.”
Following the intermission, the voyage moves into the final and oldest music of the evening: “Scheherazade,” a concerto written in 1888 by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Byess describes the Russian composer’s piece as a breathtaking musical depiction of travel and exploration from the Arabian Nights.
“‘Scheherazade’ is fascinating because Rimsky-Korsakov wanted to join the Navy. In fact, his entire childhood was geared toward joining the Navy,” Byess said. “He wanted to travel. When he graduated from naval school, he took a 30-month trip around the world going to places like Rio de Janeiro and New York, and this was in the late 1860s. When he got home, he decided to devote himself to music. A lot of his music entails stories, musical depictions of his travels.
“To think (Scheherazade) was written in 1888, it could be a film score today,” Byess added. “It is so descriptive.”
The NMSO’s journey through the 49th year makes its second stop Dec. 14 when it welcomes singer Terry Mike Jeffrey for “An Elvis Christmas” concert.
Byess said having a performance featuring the music of Tupelo’s native son helps connect the symphony with the community.
“We run the gamut from playing Mozart and Beethoven to an entire concert of music that Elvis Presley sang and loved during Christmastime,” he said. “One of the biggest parts of the orchestra’s mission is to find a way to be a part of the fabric of the community.”
The NMSO will partner with Tupelo Community Theatre for a trip to “South Pacific” – a performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical March 20-22. TCT is celebrating its 50th season during 2019-20.
“We’re doing our first-ever collaboration with Tupelo Community Theatre,” Byess said. “It’s another way to bring in two parts of the community that doesn’t always cross over into each other’s world. Again, that’s a big part of our mission.”
Other performances during NMSO’s 2019-20 season include:
• “NMSO Discovery” on Jan. 18, with featured performer Danilo Mezzadri on flute. The audience can interact with Mezzadri and other NMSO members during the performance at the BancorpSouth Conference Center.
• “Concerto for Hope” on Feb. 22, featuring trumpet performers Ryan Anthony and John Schuesselin.
• “Rare Games” on April 18, featuring Robert Henry on piano.
“We try to create a comprehensive season that will have offerings that cover the diverse gamut of pieces we call classical music,” Byess said.