It has been a whirlwind year for Michelle Merrill. The conductor and music director for the Coastal Symphony of Georgia has thoroughly enjoyed her first year, albeit a busy one, in the role.
“It’s been a really great year, and we’ve pretty much sold out every show. We’ve had a couple seats here and there when people couldn’t come last minute but overall there’s been a wait list for every show,” she said.
“It’s been great being with the orchestra and getting to know the community. But it has all gone by really fast.”
The orchestra with Merrill at its helm has put on three shows to date with music running the gamut from modern to traditional — Bernstein to Beethoven, Mozart to Sergei Prokofiev.
While they’ve covered a lot of ground this year, they have one last hurrah before breaking for the summer. Their final performance, titled “American Sounds” will be held at 8 p.m. Monday at Brunswick High School’s auditorium.
The concert will cover more recent composers, all based in the United States. Selections will include Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” as well as a composition by Merrill’s former colleague from the Detroit Symphony, Conor Brown.
The composer will also be hand to share his thoughts on the piece titled, “How to Relax with Origami,” with the audience.
“He had his piece performed when I was a member of the Detroit Symphony but I was at home with my son, who had just been born. I did watch the webcast of it,” she said.
“It is really accessible and interesting ... it sounds great and is a great gateway to new music.”
Sharing this piece and having the composer available to offer his thoughts is a bonus for all, Merrill feels. She also sees it as a way of introducing audiences to the concept of modern orchestral music.
“He will also be going to the schools and speaking to some of the students which I think is a really rare thing to have, a modern composer. I think it’s a good way of connecting to more modern music,” she said. “I think we have an idea of classical music being one thing ... more of the European model but we have a lot of great modern music including movie scores which are all modern. It’s a good way to remember that there is a lot of music that has happened in other parts of the world.”
Brown will not be the only guest for the show. World class violinist, Sarah Crocker Vonsattel, a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York City, will follow Brown’s composition performing in Samuel Barber’s “Violin Concerto.”
Following the intermission, the audiences will be treated to selections by Aaron Copland, “Fanfare for the Common Man” and “Appalachian Spring Suite.”
“Copland really embodied the American sound ... it gives the feeling of wide open spaces through really a lack of notes. He only wrote the notes he needed,” she said.
To close the evening and the season, Merrill will take the audience full circle with American favorite Leonard Bernstein, who was also featured in the first concert of 2019. This time, the orchestra will perform selections of American blues and jazz, including “Three Dance Episodes” from “On the Town: Times Square 1944.”
While the season is coming to a close and orchestra members will a break from playing in Brunswick, Merrill will continue to have a full schedule. She is traveling to San Francisco, Calif., this summer to work on an opera. Once she returns she will, once again, focus on community involvement visiting local organizations to share thoughts on music.
“I will speak to a garden club about music related to flowers and plants. I will also be working with some other things in the community like expanding the season to include family concerts,” she said.
“I want to make it more open for people to experience, maybe even taking concerts outside so families can have picnics while they listen. It can be a rare experience to have live, acoustic music right in front of you but it’s a very moving experience.”