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Think you have to go all the way to Norfolk or Richmond to hear a great symphony performance? Think again. On March 6 and 8, a new local orchestra will present a concert designed to delight audiences, featuring a home-grown musical prodigy. The Hampton Roads Philharmonic will team up with Sterling Elliott, a 15-year-old cellist from Newport News, to present the impassioned Elgar Cello Concerto, along with another romantic masterpiece, the “Unfinished Symphony” by Schubert.
The orchestra is only a year-and-a-half old, but it has already generated buzz in Hampton Roads. According to conductor Steven Brindle, “[t]he greatest strength of our orchestra is definitely our players.” Made up of semi-professional local musicians from all walks of life- doctors, physicists, and students, among others- Brindle commends their volunteering of time, effort, and talent. In fact, he chose the pieces for this concert especially to highlight the orchestra’s musical ability, as well as to excite the audience. “The Elgar and the Schubert are perennial favorites among listeners,” he said. “And our opening piece, the overture from the Barber of Seville by Rossini, almost everyone will recognize from Saturday morning cartoons.” The piece was parodied by the Warner Brothers over 60 years ago in the short, the Rabbit of Seville.
Sterling Elliott, in his own words, was born to play the cello. “[My mom] always wanted a family quartet, so then I just started playing cello ‘cuz I was like, the last one born,” he laughs. Born and raised in Hampton Roads, he has won competitions around the country and was even featured recently as a soloist with the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, one of the premier orchestras in the nation. When Brindle first heard a recording of Elliott, he was blown away. “I thought to myself, this guy is going to be a world-class cellist someday,” he recalls. Due to Elliott’s intense performing schedule, he will only be able to rehearse with the orchestra twice before the performances. “There are some potential pitfalls in the fourth movement, especially with all the tempo changes,” says Brindle. He has confidence in his players, though, and adds, “I’m looking forward to hearing the audience’s reaction.”
For those who have never attended a classical music performance before, Brindle has a simple tip for getting the most enjoyment- try to remember the melodies. “They’ll be laid out at the beginning of the piece, and as it progresses, you’ll hear them morph and change in unexpected ways.” In the classical era (Mozart, for example), each movement would have different themes. But in the romantic era which followed, composers pushed those boundaries. “In the Schubert Unfinished Symphony, he uses similar themes in both movements that use a syncopated rhythm – yet the movements remain different. Schubert was bridging classical and romantic styles. It’s one of the reasons I find the piece so fascinating.”
There are two opportunities to hear the performance:
March 6 at 8 pm
American Theater in Hampton
Tickets $20; $10 for students, senior, and military; also, groups of 10 tickets may be purchased for $10 each
available online here or by phone at 757-722-2787
March 8 at 4 pm
Trinity United Methodist Church (part of the Sundays at 4 series)
Tickets $20; $5 for students
available online here or by phone at 757-375-9140