Three-day festival to celebrate British composer

Students practice Britten’s orchestra pieces for the festival, which starts on Oct. 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the W. E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Audry Dubon.

Ben Simon
Contributing Writer

VCU Music this week will host a three-day music festival dedicated to the life of one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century: Benjamin Britten.

Scheduled from Oct. 3 to Oct. 5, the festival is only a few weeks removed from the 100th birthday of the late musician, who is known for such works as “Peter Grimes” and “War Requiem.” Students and faculty will perform Britten’s works over the course of the weekend, said Rebecca Tyree, festival coordinator and director of choral activities.

“Part of my interest was that we have our students exposed to Britten’s music,” Tyree said. “(Britten) was an incredible writer. Very imaginative.”

Performances on Oct. 3 and Oct. 5 begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Vlahcevic Concert Hall in the W. E. Singleton Center for the Performing Arts. Students with a valid VCU ID can get in for free. General admission tickets cost $7 in advance and $10 at the door.

On Friday, Oct. 4, the performance will be at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church on 1627 Monument Ave. Tickets are not required.

The evening of Oct. 3 will be dedicated to Britten’s orchestral pieces. The highlight of the evening will be “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” one of Britten’s most famous pieces. Those in attendance will also have the opportunity to hear professors Kenneth Wood, a vocalist, and Patrick Smith, a french horn player, act as soloists on Thursday night. This day will also feature a matinee for area school students.

The following day will showcase some of Britten’s choral and vocal pieces, such as the acclaimed “Missa Brevis in D.” On the final day, Oct. 5, faculty members will perform some of Britten’s chamber music compositions.

Students rehearse for the music department’s Britten Festival. Attendees will get to hear some of Britten’s most famous pieces, such as “The Young Person’s Guide to Orchestra” and “Missa Brevis in D.” Photo by Audry Dubon.

“He wrote incredibly well for all musicians and for the listener,” Tyree said. “I think that the great diversity of his music would be appealing … to a listener coming in, and each of the nights we have diversity.”

Benjamin Britten was born in 1913 in Suffolk, England. He completed his earliest composition at the age of six, leading many to compare him to a young Mozart.

During World War II, Britten moved to the U.S., but returned to England later in life. He eventually founded the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts, an annual classical music festival that recently put on its 65th production. Britten died in 1976.

Director of Orchestral Studies Daniel Myssyk will take on the role of conductor during the festival. He praised Britten’s talent as musician and composer.

“(Britten) is totally revered in England. It’s just that we have to get his name out more here,” Myssyk said. “During his time, orchestras in Britain were not especially disciplined, and he tried to really work very hard to bring the level of the professional playing up.”

For those who are not well versed in orchestra music, Myssyk said the chance to hear some of Britten’s most famous works will be a first step in bringing students into the realm of classical music.

“(VCU students) will get a chance to hear ‘The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,’” Myssyk said. “That’s a wonderful first step into not only Britten’s music, but also into the orchestra world.”

Leave a Reply