Washington Symphony's 'Scored to Death' includes work about historic fire

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In keeping with the Halloween season, the Washington Symphony Orchestra will offer a musical scare ride at its next concert, aptly titled "Scored to Death."

The Oct. 13 performance will feature compositions that have an eerie feel, including selections from the horror film, "Psycho;" "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl;" and "Danse Macabre," a work by composer Camille Saint-Saens in which the devil plays a fiddle in a cemetery as skeletons rise from their graves and dance to his music until dawn.

The concert also will feature three movements from Mozart's "Requiem," performed with 110 singers of the California University of Pennsylvania choir.

"We'll perform some of the meatier sections of the 'Requiem,' including one that deals with eternal damnation and how the flames of hell lick at your feet unless you change your wicked ways," said Yugo Ikach, Washington Symphony Orchestra music director.

In addition to Modest Mussorgsky's musical picture of the witches' Sabbath titled "Night on Bald Mountain," the concert will include "The March to the Scaffold" from "Symphonie Fantastique" by Hector Berlioz.

"Through the music, the audience will be able to hear the victim clomping up to the scaffold, the fall of the guillotine and his head falling into a basket," Mr. Ikach said. "Written for two timpani, our concert will spotlight father and son, John Conkle and John Conkle Jr., playing the percussion instruments."

More tragedy than horror, a composition by Kyle Simpson, 32, a music professor at Washington & Jefferson College, will make its world premiere at the concert. The commissioned work, titled "A Step Through the Fire," recalls the Pittsburgh fire of April 1845, in which most of the Downtown area was destroyed.

"I feel it's important to foster young composers, and Kyle ... is both local and talented, which is a perfect fit for the WSO," Mr. Ikach said.

The 1845 fire was accidentally started by a woman burning brush. One person died and many were injured or left homeless.

"The first movement depicts the hazy, overcast morning of the fire and begins with a slow but tense and eerie sound as a premonition that something ominous is about to happen," Mr. Simpson said. "Ostinato, a repetitive musical idea, in the percussion gives the impression that the city is starting to go to work, and several instrumental solos on the English horn, oboe and clarinet represent several hard-working people."

The second movement, a depiction of the actual fire, is fast, tense and cacophonous.

The third movement depicts the city as a phoenix rising from its ashes.

To explain what each movement depicts, Mr. Simpson asked Andrew Mulvania, a friend, poet and professor in the English department at Washington & Jefferson, to write a narrative for each section that will be printed in the concert program.

"Andrew wrote something I feel is perfect and beautiful that's also a wonderful aid for the piece," Mr. Simpson said. "For me, personally, 'A Step Through the Fire' is an exploration of new musical ideas. Ultimately, the work is about hope, which is an important message for me to try to convey."

The Washington Symphony Orchestra will perform "Scored to Death" at 8 p.m. Oct. 13 at Trinity High School Auditorium, 231 Park Ave., Washington, Pa. Tickets are $20, $15 for students and seniors age 65 and older. Information: 724-223-9796.

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Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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