WPO promises no tricks, just ‘Magical Treats’

After celebrating its 50th anniversary in June, the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra kicks off its next half century with an afternoon of “Magical Treats.”

A slightly abbreviated version of the family concert will be played for area school children at two performances this morning at Lakeview High School, and the full concert will open the orchestra’s 2016-17 season at Christ Episcopal Church on Sunday.

For the Halloween season, the concert includes Camille Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre” as well as orchestral favorites from Aaron Copland ( “Hoe-Down” from his ballet “Rodeo”) and Edvard Grieg (“In the Hall of the Mountain King”).

Susan Davenny Wyner, conductor and music director of the orchestra since 1999, said, “I love creating an adventure that somehow has to do with the time of year, plus taking us from pieces that we know well to pieces that are not so well known, that somehow throw light on one another,” she said. “The fun for the child in all of us is seeing these great composers — Copland, Grieg, Saint-Saens — tell those wonderful stories just using the colors of the orchestra.”

Soloists for Sunday’s concert are baritone Brian Keith Johnson and violinist Joseph Kromholz.

Johnson — a Warren native who grew up watching the orchestra and whose mother, Lillie, was a longtime board member — has sung with the orchestra several times over the years. On Sunday he will perform “Largo al factotum” from the Rossini opera “Barber of Seville” and the Toreador Song from Bizet’s “Carmen,” which he will sing next month with Opera Western Reserve at Stambaugh Auditorium (Wyner is music director for the opera).

“Brian is such a treasure,” Wyner said. “I thought it would be fun to hear his ‘Barber of Seville,’ and ‘Carmen’ is not only a wonderful piece of music for the orchestra but it connects to the opera that is being done on Nov. 11 in Stambaugh. That kind of collaborative exchange is important for all of us.”

Wyner said their experience working together is valuable for these two selections.

“Both of these pieces have places where the singer goes off and holds notes forever or does things to tease  or surprise,” she said. “The joy of working with someone over a period of years is we have a sense of one another and we feel comfortable exchanging ideas.”

Kromholz teaches violin, viola and chamber music at Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music. He performs with CityMusic Cleveland and Opera Western Reserve and was named concertmaster of Warren Philharmonic Orchestra last season.

He will be featured on Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1.

“Joseph Kromholz is a beautiful violinist,” Wyner said. “He’s got a kind of eloquence combined with his virtuosity that is very compelling … When he gets that violin in his hand, some inner spirit and soul just pours out of him.”

On display at the concert will be the entries in the orchestra’s “Music in Art” contest. Children are invited to draw pictures inspired by the music the orchestra is playing for the concert (CDs were sent out to area schools with the music). In the 10 years of the contest, the submissions have been displayed in art galleries and community spaces. This year’s winners will be announced at Sunday’s concert.