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Classical 101

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Fanfare

Columbus Symphony Orchestra
The Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Chorus fill the stage this weekend for Lyric Fanfare by Donald Harris and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff.

It's no secret that the Columbus Symphony Orchestra is excited about what is being called, "the Milanov Era," since Maestro Rossen Milanov has signed a five-year contract with our city's orchestra. To express this excitement, the CSO is opening the season this weekend with some of the most electrifying music in the repertoire; the Carmina Burana and extraordinary local composer Donald Harris's Lyric Fanfare

Most listeners are familiar with the Carmina Burana; the Latin, Provençal, and Middle High German texts of 24 poems written in the 11th, 12th and 13ths Centuries, set to music by Carl Orff.

You probably know, "Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi" (aka "O, Fortuna") from popular media, even commercials.


But the most exciting selection on the program for me is Donald Harris's Lyric Fanfare.

Why? Because we, as a community, have the opportunity to sit in the same hall and hear a work by one of the greatest composers of our time; a composer who has worked with his wife, Marilyn, to educate and inspire the next generation of composers and musicians.

Long before he worked in Columbus, Dr. Donald Harris studied with the famous Nadia Boulanger, along with Ross Lee Finney, Max Deutsch, Boris Blacher, Lukas Foss, and André Jolivet. He served as faculty and administration at both the New England Conservatory of Music and the Hartt School of Music at the behest of the late, great Gunther Schuller.

The United States Information Agency even turned to him to produce Paris's first postwar Festival of Contemporary American Music. (I heartily encourage you to watch the documentary Sonata, 1957 about Harris's postwar work in Paris.)

Credit New England Conservatory of Music / http://necmusic.edu/archives/donald-harris
A portrait of the young Donald Harris from his time at the New England Conservatory of Music, 1967-1977.

After all of these incredible years of composition and educating America's greatest musicians, Dr. Harris came to Ohio State University to teach for 22 years and to serve as our dean of the School of Arts.

During his time as administrator, he recruited some of OSU's most illustrious faculty members and taught many of the Midwest's best composers and composition educators.

Recently, Dr. Harris has donated his entire studio and personal musical collection to Ohio State. This includes everything from correspondence with some of the 20th Century's most prolific composers to signed copies of the music of Darius Milhaud. On the subject of these donated materials, Marilyn Harris correctly asserted:

"This is the music people will be studying in the next hundred years."

You can even read his personal correspondences with Nadia Boulanger and Gunther Schuller at the Ohio State University Archives.

Most importantly, Dr. Harris and his gracious wife, Marilyn, truly support music education and appreciation available to anyone and everyone. They reach out to students and audiences with earnest support and interest.

How do I know this? They invited me over for lunch today.

On the Lyric Fanfare

Over sandwiches today, Dr. Harris explained that the Lima Symphony Orchestra commissioned  Lyric Fanfareas part of a series of fanfares to be written for the orchestra's 60th anniversary

Dr. Harris: "I said, 'But, I don't really do fanfares.' Why should I waste a whole orchestra for a little fanfare?"

So, Dr. Harris took the opportunity to expand the very definition of 'fanfare' and to take inspiration from Aaron Copland's famous Fanfare for the Common Man. Dr. Harris embraced not only the brass and wind sections of the orchestra, but focused on music for the string instruments, and thus made something inherently lyrical. Thus the Lyric Fanfare earned its title.

This weekend, we have the opportunity to hear a work that both embraced and bucked its own mold by a great composer in our midst. Moreover, the Columbus Symphony Orchestra has worked diligently so the public can hear it either in the grandeur of the Ohio Theatre, or free of charge, outside at the Columbus Commons Friday, October 2nd during a live simulcast.

This Season in Columbus

After discussing Lyric Fanfare, Dr. Harris and Mrs. Harris talked a bit about the upcoming CSO Happy Hour set for October 29th. This Happy Hour concert will be a little different. 

The CSO has partnered with EarShot, The National Orchestral Composition Discovery Network, to host a Live Composer Competition. This means that-- for no charge and with complimentary hors d'oeuvres-- anyone in Columbus may attend the concert and actually vote for their favorite composition afterward. Dr. Harris worked this summer as a Composer Emeritus to help narrow the compositions from 131 entries down to the final 4 from which the audience and a jury will choose a winner. 

I asked how long it took him to read 131 music manuscripts online and decide, critically, which should make the cut. His response: "Forever."

On Tomorrow's Music

After discussing his composition and the upcoming season, I asked Donald Harris one of the most important questions for composers and musicologists: "Do you believe in progress for music?" Meaning- does music itself get "better" or progress like, say, technology or medicine. His response made it clear that we need to have lunch again:

"Progression exists. How to define it; that's the issue."

This Season with the CSO

This weekend, you can celebrate Columbus's composers and musicians by supporting the CSO with your attendance. On the eve of many symphonies across the country shutting their doors and withdrawing to save money, our symphony is reaching out to include absolutely anyone who will listen. Students at local universities even have the chance to attend every concert this season for only $25 through the College Club.

Here are a few ways to enjoy your symphony this weekend, Columbus.

Preludes: Friday and Saturday evening brush up on music with Christopher Purdy, 7-7:30 pm in the Ohio Theatre auditorium before the concert.

CSO presents Carmina Burana:​ live at the Ohio Theatre October 2 and 3 at 8pm (Before attending the concert, check out Maestro Milanov's Soundbite selection for dinner at Martini Modern Italian restaurant at 445 North High Street.)

CSO Live Outdoor Simulcast: Watch the CSO present Carmina Burana outside at the Columbus Commons, free of charge, October 2 at 8pm only.

TONIC: Saturday evening at 10 pm, following the Symphony, you can enjoy drinks and conversation at The Walrus with the Columbus Symphony Young Professionals, Rossen Milanov, and members of the CSO

This season, everyone is welcome to the Symphony. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra invites patrons to support the orchestra by purchasing tickets and attending the event at the Ohio Theatre, or by attending the free simulcast outdoor live event Friday, October 2nd at the Columbus Commons.

Classical 101