Michelle Merrill didn’t really get much in terms of a summer break. The music director of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia may have been away from the orchestra, but her work continued.
“I’ve had a nice summer break. I’ve been in San Francisco doing some stuff with the opera out there. But I was also able to spend some time with family. My son turned 2 so that was exciting,” she said.
Merrill has since settled back into concert mode, as the symphony’s opening night approaches. The performance will be held at 8 p.m. Monday at the Brunswick High School auditorium. Concerts will continue throughout the year and into the spring of 2020.
Susan Garrett, vice president of the symphony’s board, notes that this season will kickoff with a special event.
“We are pleased to offer a pre-concert dinner at the Brunswick Country Club on Opening Night,” says Susan Garrett, symphony vice president and marketing chair.
“This dinner offers our guests an opportunity to begin the evening with good friends and a delicious dinner before the performance. They have proven popular in the past, and we are hearing from concert goers who are happy we are bringing them back.”
For Merrill, this year’s musical line up is all about colors, style and stories. In fact, that is why the symphony’s year is themed “Kaleidoscope.” That’s true throughout the season but will be strongly on display at the opening show.
“The two main pieces are (George) Gershwin and (Maurice) Ravel. They were contemporaries and Gershwin went to Paris to be Ravel’s student, but he was rejected because Ravel said, ‘why be a second rate Ravel when you could be a first rate Gershwin?,” Merrill said.
“They really respected and admired each other. So that’s why I paired those together.”
The pieces to be performed include Gershwin’s “Lullaby” and “American in Paris,” as well as Ravel’s “La Valse” and “Mother Goose Suite.”
Joining these two musical giants will be a modern composer — Jared Miller, whom Merrill knows personally.
“We worked together when I was in Detroit. He just has a really unique sound, based off almost an (electric dance music), techno music style. It’s not techno music, it’s still orchestral, but it has that tone and color,” she said.
“It is really interesting. It has the effect of the beat dropping out. So I just thought this was a great way to start the season. Sometimes people are afraid of new music but we hear new music all the time — on TV or movies. They each tell a different story for different people.”
Moving forward, the colorful theme will continue with the Dec. 2 performance, which will feature a taste of traditional holiday flare — Tchaikovsky.
“We are doing selections from ‘The Nutcracker.’ It’s a fun ballet with really great music,” she said.
“We will be doing Hummel’s ‘Concerto in E-flat major’ featuring Tristan Clarke of the Melodica Men (previously featured in a symphony’s SoundBite session). We will also be doing the ‘Overture to Hansel and Gretel,’ which is always performed around Christmas in Germany.”
As the symphony moves into 2020, March will offer a more intimate sound with Hayden and Mozart.
“It’s almost like a chamber concert with Hayden and Mozart, who are classical greats. We will also feature Caroline Shaw who is a young, Pulitzer Prize winner.”
The full schedule of concerts and pieces to be performed can be found at www.coastalsymphonyofgeorgia.org. While the symphony’s performances are the primary focus, they’re certainly not the only items on the agenda for the year.
According to Michael Frick, president of the Symphony Society, the organization offers so much more than classical concerts.
“The Musical Mentors program takes professional musicians into the local schools offering students an up close and personal experience with them. Our music director and conductor, Michelle Merrill, presents informative and entertaining lectures on genres of music,” he said.
“And our SoundBites events give people who may not attend our concerts an opportunity to hear a variety of music in a more casual setting. This year, we are excited to offer a family Christmas Concert at the Christ Church, Frederica Parish Hall featuring the musical magic of pianist Terry Readdick. Terry will play traditional Christmas songs and new arrangements of selections from ‘The Nutcracker.’”