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Mayor, famed violoncellist featured at symphony's subscription concert

By Staff
Feb. 11, 2001
Meridian Symphony Orchestra (MSO) will present its third subscription concert "American Influences" on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Meridian Community College's Ivy Hall Theater.
Prior to the scheduled performance, Claire Fox Hillard, MSO music director and conductor, and guest artist Christopher Rex, a violoncellist, will present an informative preview of the evening's concert at 7 at the Casteel Gallery in the L.O. Todd Library. The two will discuss the evening's music and answer questions from the audience before the performance. The discussion is open to the public.
The evening's program will include works by Aaron Copland, "Prelude to a Solemn Occasion," 1949, which will be narrated by Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith. Smith's narration performance will include a proclamation recognizing the MSO 40th Anniversary Celebration. He also will narrate the Prelude as a part of the centenary celebrating Aaron Copland's birth. According to research collected by Hillard as it relates to the composers and guest artist for Saturday night's musical selections the National Broadcasting Company commissioned Copland to write a composition for the United Nations commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Human Rights. The resulting "Prelude to a Solemn Occasion"
was first performed by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on Dec. 10, 1949, with Leonard Bernstein conducting and actor Laurence Olivier as guest speaker. The text is taken from the Preamble to the United Nations Charter.
Rex joined the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as principal cello in 1979, the same year he became the first cellist to win the string prize in the biennial Young Artists Competition of the National Federation of Music Clubs. He has appeared as recitalist and chamber musician across the nation. In the summer of 1988, he shared acting principal duties for the New York Philharmonic's European tour, replacing Lorne Munrow.
Rex's interest in the cello began at age 8, completing a family string quartet in his hometown of Winter Park, Fla. Following his studies at Curtis Institute of Music with Orlando Cole and at Julliard School with
Leonard Rose, he was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra under director Eugene Ormandy for seven seasons.
He has taught at Gettysburg College, the New School of Music in Philadelphia, Georgia State University and the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, N.C.
Rex has soloed numerous times with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, performing Don Quixote by Strauss, the Brahms Double Concerto, the Beethoven Triple Concerto, both concertos and the Sinfonia Concertante by
Haydn, Prokovief's Symphonia Concertante, Tchaikovsky's Variations on a Rococo Theme, and concerts by Schumann, Elgar, Hindemith, Herbert, and Saint-Saens. His most recent solo appearances with the Atlanta Symphony included performances of the Shostakovich Concerto No. 1, the Vivaldi Double Concerto for two cellos and in January, the Elgar Cello Concerto.
The artist is a founding member of the Georgian Chamber Players, whose concert series in Atlanta has welcomed such guest performers as Emanual Ax, Misha Dichter, Phillippe Entremont, Shlomo Mintz, Joseph
Silverstein, Yefim Bronfman, Robert McDuffie, Lee Luvisi, William Preucil and James Starker.
Pursuing a long-time interest in visual arts, Rex has produced many fine drawings and water colors, some of which have been used by the Atlanta Symphony for Christmas cards and sold as note cards. Recently, he has expanded his interest to graphics on his Macintosh computer. In addition to his duties as principal cellist with the Atlanta Symphony, he is currently a full time degree student at the Atlanta College of Art. His wife, Dr. Martha Wilkins, is a pediatric anesthesiologist at Atlanta Scottish Rite Children's Hospital. The couple have two children, a daughter, Caroline Bethea, and a son, Christopher Austell.
Additional musical selections will be the compositions of Carlos Chavez, Symphony No. 2, "Sinfonia India ,"1935; Victor Herbert, Cello concerto No. 2 in e minor, 1894, with guest artist Christopher Rex; and Antonin Dvorak, Symphony No. 9, "From a New World, 1893.
A synopsis of the aforementioned composers researched by Hillard is as follows:
Carlos Chavez composed his Sinfonia India, the Symphony No. 2, in New York during the winter of 1935-36 and conducted its world premiere during a concert broadcast by the Columbia Symphony Orchestra on
Jan. 23, 1936. The symphony takes its name from its use of Mexican Indian melodies, unusual among Chavez's compositions. Like his first symphony, this is a true one-movement symphony based on an alteration of the classical sonata-allegro form.
Victor Herbert was born in Dublin and trained as a musician in Stuttgart, Germany. Today, he is remembered primarily as the musical genius who created a mountain of hummable tunes such as "Kiss Me Again," "Gypsy Love Song" and "Italian Street Song." However, he also created a significant body of serious music in large forms and was an active performer and fine conductor.
Antonin Dvorak came to America in late 1892. Apart from a visit to his homeland, he remained here for almost three years as head of the National Conservatory of Music (a forerunner of the Julliard School) in New York City. During that time, he taught, led concerts, composed and absorbed American folk ways. America broadened his outlook and gave him financial security for the rest of his life.
Tickets for Saturday's performance may be purchased at the door. Prices are: $15, adults; $12, senior citizens/military; $8, students; and children under 12 admitted free.
For further information, call 693-2224 or e-mail mdasympht~Mississippi.net
Vickie Edwards is a member of MSO's board of director. She is director of Adult Education at East Mississippi State Hospital.

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