I'm really not a high-brow sort, but I scooped up a couple of cheap tickets as part of a package at the Northwest Mississippi Community Foundation's Crystal Ball last month and bought a couple more for my daughter.
We enjoyed ourselves. The first portion was Schubert's unfinished Eighth Symphony. It lasted only 22 minutes and was wonderful. After intermission and a glass of wine was Brahm's German Requiem. This is his longest composition and lasted approximately 70 minutes, and I confess I felt towards the end it had "too many notes," as Emperor Joseph is said to have told Mozart. The performance itself was perfect and I enjoyed it; part of my problem is that I don't like sitting still for extended periods. I often watch television standing up.
The orchestra was outstanding. The community chorus, which is made up of approximately 120 people who donate massive amounts of their time, did a great job. And the conductor, Mei-Ann Chen, looked as if she was possessed, and I mean that in a good way. She was a dynamo.
Prior to the performance an official with the symphony got up to talk about the Memphis Symphony's financial problems. Due to really severe financial problems this will be the last year for the Memphis Symphony in it's current form. There are going to be some very major cuts and changes. In fact, the financial problems are severe enough that their major worry right now is just finishing out the season.
In 2000 the MSO had an endowment of more than $6 million. The seriousness of the current financial situation became apparent after a new CEO was brought in last November to try to work out the organization's problems. Some hard choices are going to have to be made, but it would have been better if some of these choices had been made several years ago while the MSO still had money in the bank.
If it should finish its season with the Sunset Symphony as part of Memphis in May -- and I'm betting it will -- the MSO will have had 196 performances over the course of the season. This includes 23 subscription concerts and 146 community engagement and educational performances. Next year's schedule, if there is one, will be much pared down.
The Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Flyer both have had good articles on this (click the links to see the stories). The sad thing is that the MSO has been successful in taking the symphony out of the performance halls and into the schools and community -- into people's everyday lives. Much of this is likely to end.
Lucy enjoyed the performance enough that she told us she wanted to start taking private cello lessons. She plays cello in the Oxford School Orchestra. So I'm glad the MSO was there for us. The Cannon Center downtown was a great facility, although I've read online that the Germantown Performing Arts Center has even better acoustics.
We look forward to attending at least one more performance of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra this year. To see the remaining ticketed events for this season, click here. One event that looks interesting is the final ticketed performance of the year, a symphony made up of Rolling Stones music. I think we'll be there.
As this might be your last chance to see the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in its current form, you might want to try to catch a performance. Your support now through ticket purchases can make a difference in what kind of symphony orchestra Memphis has next year, or if it has one at all.
Closer to home, the LOU Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert is March 3Of course, Memphis is 75 miles away from us Oxford folks, and while we wish them well we also want our own institutions to do well.
The LOU Symphony Orchestra has it's Winter Concert scheduled for March 3 at the Gertrude Ford Center. Tickets are $10 and available at the box office or online. I would presume one could buy them the night of the performance at the Ford Center, but I would call first.
The LOU Orchestra has another concert scheduled for April 14 at the Ford Center.