JSU Civic Symphony

JSU Civic Symphony members (from left) Drew Bradley, Rachel Sherrod, Ethan Owens, Chad Jones and Rachel Park prepare for a Nov. 13 concert.


Music will feed the heart and soul — and certainly the imagination — for those at the JSU Civic Symphony concert Nov. 13 at Anniston’s First United Methodist Church at 7:30 p.m.

Neverland isn’t listed in the pages of research, but it might begin to exist in the mind for listeners as the orchestra plays “Flight to Neverland” from the film score by John Williams for the fantasy adventure “Hook.”

Add to this the inspiration that Beethoven brings in his Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor and the contagious excitement felt in Dvorak’s New World Symphony, and you’re in for a grandioso evening.

“Flight to Neverland” is about the soaring trip that an adult Peter Pan and Tinkerbell take to a land beyond the stars. Peter must save his children after Captain Hook kidnaps them.

If you know the background of the Beethoven piano concerto, you can draw inspiration from the composer’s unfailing passion and persistence in creating it, even while he was suffering from painful illness, a decline in hearing and disappointments in love.

Beethoven evidently found a new resolve to complete his calling, and his work showed an increasingly individual style. In fact, after embarking on this new path, the composer gave the world some of the greatest music ever written, according to “Beethoven” by Joyce Swafford.

Beethoven’s doctor had prescribed a rest cure for him at Heiligenstadt, a village overlooking a lake near Vienna, and this afforded him a productive time, but his hearing continued to decline. According to Swafford’s text, he wrote a letter to his brother in which he said he was considering suicide — but he never mailed the letter, and decided instead to dedicate his whole being to composing.

He wrote five concertos for piano and orchestra. This was a time when concertos were in demand by the public. Concerto No. 3 premiered in 1803 with Beethoven as the solo pianist.

There is evidence that he had been thinking about it since 1796, possibly during his Berlin stay. Or perhaps he would jot down ideas on his walks in nature as he sang to himself, a pastime he loved.

Listen for a stern, stormy opening, then a rondo, by contrast buoyant, and a flowing dialogue between the piano and orchestra. Also, it becomes clear that the composer was showing off the piano as a powerful and expressive instrument.

What’s heard is a reflection of his personality: dark and light at different times. Sometimes rude, sometimes generous and sociable, but always driven to express the music in his mind.

Upon seeing the landscape of North America with its open plains, Bohemian-born composer Antonin Dvorak saw new possibilities and opportunity. In New York in 1885 as director of the National Conservatory of Music, he orchestrated “From the New World,” which was inspired by spirituals he had heard. He was also interested in Native American culture and ritual dances.

First performed by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the symphony was a success. One of its themes has a significant resemblance to the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

Dvorak felt deeply that folk songs should find their way to composers’ pages, according to Milton Cross’ “Encyclopedia of the Great Composers and Their Music.”

It is said that when a child is born in Bohemia, the parents would place a silver spoon near one hand of the infant and a violin near the other. Whichever object was reached for by the child would suggest his future as either a wealthy tradesman or an indigent musician.

If given this proverbial test, Dvorak probably reached for the violin, although both legendary objects were important in his life. His father was an innkeeper and wanted his son to choose the silver spoon. But music was the fundamental part in Dvorak’s life.

Everyone is invited to the concert. It is a free event.

Civil War novelist at Historical Society

The next meeting of the Calhoun County Historical Society will be Nov. 13 in the Ayers Room of the Public Library of Anniston-Calhoun County. A hospitality mixer is at 5 p.m. and the formal meeting begins at 5:20 p.m.

The guest speaker is Stephanie Bain, Oxford native, author and historian. She will speak on the concept and research for her recent book “The Girl I Left Behind,” a novel about a woman who posed as a male soldier in the Civil War.

The meeting is open to the public and all are welcome. For more information, contact Judy Draper at 256-237-5657.

Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at herveyfolsom@yahoo.com.