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NFSO Celebrates 500 years of Florida History on February 22

Mattie Kelly Arts Center


Jackson Walker's <i>They Called It La Florida</i>
Jackson Walker's They Called It La Florida

1/30/2013 - The Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra continues to celebrate its 25th anniversary with a special performance recognizing 500 years of Florida History on Friday, February 22nd at 7:30 p.m. in the magnificent Mattie Kelly Fine and Performing Arts Center in Niceville. Featured will be the regional premiere of Robert Kerr's multi-media work Legendary Florida: A Historical Portrait in Sound.

Written in 2010 and commissioned by the Museum of Florida Art in DeLand, Kerr’s score is inspired by the artwork of Florida-based artist Jackson Walker. This symphonic tone poem will feature New York City-based television and stage star Harry Burney, Florida touring artists Donna Wissinger and Joy Myers, and the Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra and Chorale under the direction of NFSO conductor and music director Jeffrey Rink.

As a part of the statewide Viva Florida 500 yearlong celebration, Kerr’s work combines music and narration with projections of Walker’s original art for an unforgettable concert experience. The work’s musical movements are inspired by Florida history, battles, Seminole Indian and African-American heritage, the Florida frontier and the natural beauty of the Sunshine State.

Also featured at the concert will be the three “Stars of Tomorrow” winners of the NFSO’s annual concerto competition for talented young musicians. These talented performers include Niceville native and Baylor University trombonist Stephen Farrell, clarinetist Diego Hernandez of Tallahassee and pianist Tyler Wilson of Milton. Works performed in this portion of the concert include concertos by Mozart, Weber and Jacob.

The Northwest Florida Symphony Orchestra is a fully-professional ensemble in residence at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville since 1987. Tickets for the NFSO concert are on sale now for $22.50 each adult and $16 for students and active duty military. Call or click for tickets by contacting the Mattie Kelly Arts Center Box office at (850) 729-6000 or visiting the orchestra’s website at Current NWFSC students may request one complimentary ticket per student ID, in person from the Box Office only.

The Legendary Florida work will also be performed during the NFSO annual fifth-graders concert, held during the day for thousands of area 5th grade students. “The work will inspire, engage, and educate children and adults alike,” noted Jeffrey Rink, NFSO music director and conductor. “This showcase of Florida's rich and diverse history, plus our young musicians in the Stars of Tomorrow portion of the concert, makes this a great cultural event for the entire family.”

Kerr’s Legendary Florida opens with a grand choral anthem, featuring the full orchestra and chorale, that strives to capture Florida's diverse landscapes, as well as her rich history, and instill a sense of national pride for this unique place, called La Pasqua de Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon, in 1513. The opening anthem is followed by a movement about the beauty of the native Indian peoples of Florida, their culture and ability to coexist with nature in a seemingly dangerous wilderness. A musical remembrance of an 1816 battle along the Apalachicola River, in which 300 black men and women died fighting to maintain their freedom, nearly 50 years before the Civil War, is presented in the style of the negro-spiritual. Other portions of the original work focus on Florida at war, the cow-hunters and early settlers in the post-Civil War Florida scrub, and early periods of Florida prosperity and peace.

The creator of Legendary Florida, Robert Kerr, has composed music for Universal Studios, NASA, the Walt Disney World Company, and has a variety of commissioned works and publications. In 2008, The Florida Young Artists Orchestra premiered his "Ponce de Leon Suite" for full orchestra in Carnegie Hall. Jackson Walker, whose artwork is depicted as part of Legendary Florida, was born in Panama City, FL, in 1946. He is known nationally for his accurate portrayals of historical circumstances and his works have been featured on television productions of the A&E Network and the History Channel and many publications and books, as well as in various private and institutional collections.

The bass soloist and narrator for Legendary Florida, Harry Burney, has appeared in stage productions, concerts and operas around the globe, along with a variety of television shows, commercials and films. He has also been Show Director for "Harambe Village" at Walt Disney's Animal Kingdom. As an Artist-in-Residence at Bethune-Cookman College, he performed and developed noted ethnomusicology projects. He is known for captivating audiences with his rich stories and songs from African-based traditions and sources.

Guest flutist Donna Wissinger has been acclaimed for her recitals on the main stages of Carnegie Hall and the renowned Glinka Capella. Recital tours have included Europe, Asia and the USA, as well as the former Soviet Union. Also a professional athlete, her recent bicycle/flute performance tour of 2,000 miles and 82 concerts from New York to Miami was featured on the National Geographic Channel. Guest pianist Joy Myers has been pianist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and a member of a variety of prestigious musical ensembles.

Youth Guest Artists who will perform in the “Stars of Tomorrow” portion of the NFSO’s February 22 concert include the winner of the College Division of the 2012 NFSO Concerto Competition, Stephen Farrell, age 19, of Niceville, a sophomore trombone performance major at Baylor University in Texas. Stephen is a graduate of the NWFSC Collegiate High School and was also a simultaneous member of the Niceville High School band while at CHS. At Baylor University, Stephen is a member of the Baylor University Trombone Choir, the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, and the highly acclaimed Baylor University Wind Ensemble. He will perform the first movement of Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra by Gordon Jacob.

Diego Hernandez, clarinet, from Tallahassee and a 17-year-old senior at Rickards High School, appears as the Senior Division winner of the NFSO Concerto Competition. He will perform the first movement of Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in f minor, Op. 73 by Carl Maria von Weber.

Tyler Wilson, age 11, a homeschooled 5th grade student from Milton, is winner of the NFSO Concerto Competition Junior Division and will perform the first movement of Concerto in C, K.26 by Mozart. Tyler started piano lessons at the age of six and has won numerous piano and violin competitions, most recently placing first in the Annual Mozart Piano Competition and the Choctaw Bay Music Club Sonata/Sonatina Spectacular.

For more information on the NFSO, visit the symphony’s Facebook page or website.