Symphony conductor celebrates American citizenship with USA-flavored season

To celebrate Dirk Meyer’s newly-minted American citizenship, the Augusta Symphony infused a red, white and blue flavor to its season.

“It’s really fascinating to explore this with the composers that came over and went through the same process,” said Meyer, he Augusta Symphony’s conductor who received dual citizenship with the United States and his native Germany at the end of last year.

Dirk Meyer, Courtesy Augusta Symphony

With a theme of American Perspectives, the season’s six-concert symphony series highlights a unique mix of composers.

“Every single one of these programs has music on it by people who were born in America and ones who became Americans,” he said.

It also highlights the works of foreign-born composers who greatly transformed American musical styles.

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a Moravian-born American composer and conductor, created the Hollywood sound associated with motion pictures, Meyer said. He wrote the scores for 16 films and received two Oscars for the films Anthony Adverse in 1936 and the Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938.

Korngold’s Theme and Variations will be featured during the Nov. 17 Symphonic Shorts’ concert, which also highlights works by Aaron Copland and some non-American composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.

Another composer who greatly influenced Broadway’s sound was Kurt Weill. The German born composer wrote the song Mack the Knife for The Threepenny Opera in 1928.

At the American Rhapsodies‘ concert on March 9, Weill’s Symphony No. 2 will be performed. That concert will also mark the 100th anniversary of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which will be featured as well as the Georgia premiere of Peter Boyer’s Rhapsody in Red, White and Blue which pays homage to the Gershwin piece.

The season features a remarkable three premieres, Meyer said.

During the first concert of 2024, James Lee III’s Courageous Lights will make its world debut. The Mozart and Milhaud event on Jan. 6, 2024 features Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 and Darius Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit.

The final premiere is the U.S. premiere of City Sketches by Polish-born Henryk Wars.

The Augusta Symphony

The pops series also has some American flair with its Country Hits on Sept. 28, the Great American Swingbook on Oct. 19 and America’s Wonders on March 21, 2024.

“That’s an interesting one,” said Meyer. “There’s a big screen they hang above the orchestra. It’s a 3D movie experience with the first half with American national parks.”

The second half highlights large cities such as Chicago and New York.

“It’s a really interesting combination,” he said.

Meyer sees that the six-concert symphony series has the ability to captivate the symphony lover as well as someone unfamiliar with orchestral music.

“The majority of these six concerts would appeal to somebody who knows nothing about orchestral music,” he said. “If they would come to the Symphonic Shorts, American Rhapsodies or Symphonic Jazz, they would be shocked at how different it is from what they imagined.”

For tickets, visit the symphony website.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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