Philharmonic Orchestra plays at Christ Episcopal

The last time Susan Davenny Wyner conducted a performance locally, it was in front of an overflowing crowd that filled Warren Community Amphitheatre in August for a free concert with world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

“It was extraordinary,” Wyner said. “That man is amazing. The magic of him being able to play something so intimate as the Bach (Cello Suites) and so spiritual and hold people captive, and his joyous love of playing with the orchestra, it expressed everything we are about as musicians.”

That evening Wyner led an orchestra made up of musicians from the Warren Philharmonic and Youngstown Symphony orchestras, and she hopes some of the people who may have experienced classical music for the first time in August will come out Sunday for the opening concert of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra’s 2018-19 season at Christ Episcopal Church.

“It introduced a lot of people to what their own community has,” she said. “I think people were shocked to hear the quality of that orchestra, and I think it opened their eyes to it.”

An abbreviated version of Sunday’s concert will be performed this Friday for area schoolchildren at Packard Music Hall. That doesn’t mean Wyner selected simple pieces for the program.

“I love these fall concerts because we’re doing music that has appeal to the young people, but at the same time I want to expose them to the greatest composers and give the orchestra real music to dig into,” Wyner said.

The program will feature Handel’s “Entrance of the Queen of Sheba,” Haydn’s Symphony No. 82 “The Bear,” Puccini’s “Chrysanthemums,” Beethoven’s “Creatures of Prometheus” overture, the Count’s aria from Mozart’s opera “The Marriage of Figaro, Verdi’s “Eri Tu” from “Un Ballo in Maschera” and Rossini’s overture to “Cinderella.”

Wyner selected “Chrysanthemums” as a contrast to Puccini’s opera “Madama Butterfly,” which she will conduct next month with Opera Western Reserve at Youngstown’s Stambaugh Auditorium. She also is looking forward to conducting the Haydn Symphony on Sunday.

“It’s incredibly inventive and filled with such high spirits,” she said. “It’s no wonder that Beethoven admired him so. Even though it is called ‘The Bear,’ it is one of the most sophisticated and adventurous pieces. He’s constantly changing up on us. I think, from an audience standpoint, those changes are audible, so I look forward with our wizards of instrumentalness to bringing that out.”

Joining the orchestra on Sunday will be Warren native and baritone Brian Keith Johnson, who was inducted this year in the Warren City Schools Alumni Hall of Fame.

Johnson has sung leading roles with Opera Western Reserve, Cleveland Opera on Tour, Opera Columbus, Lyric Opera Cleveland and other companies, and has sung with the Cleveland Orchestra, Akron Symphony, Youngstown Symphony, Canton Symphony and the Dayton Bach Society.

“He sang on the very first season that I did here,” Wyner said. “I have just grown to love him like a dear friend … We have explored so many different pieces and I have watched him grow, and we also felt free with one another to really poke at ideas together. When there are things that he can bring out of himself that he’s not doing, I can tease and cajole him.

“Also, he is a person who builds relationships with his colleagues all over the country, and he’s alerted me to wonderful singers I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.”