“Stories and Enigmas” :: Concert Preview No. 3

Before each concert, we share “Manny’s Musings,” thoughts from our Music Director and Conductor, Manny Laureano. This is the final edition of the “Musings” for the “Stories and Enigmas” concert that will be performed on Sunday, February 25, 2018.

Edward Elgar, Composer

Imagine you are a very strong country whose empire is so large that it would soon be said that the sun never set upon it, as there is always some part of the globe you conquered that’s lit up by some part of the sun’s rays. Not only that, you are the reigning monarch of the English language, as you have few that match you in your use of prose. An influential queen is on the throne. You rule the seas and all that. You have it all.

Not quite.

While the written arts were on display in every library on the planet, you do lack in a couple of areas that much of the world find important. There are no current household names that gave you equal notoriety in the art of painting nor that one other artistic endeavor: classical music. There are sea shanties and folk tunes that were recognizable across borders but symphonies and the like? Not so much.

And so it came to pass, that England was quietly in search of a national composer who would write music that the world found itself embracing. God provided in the form of one Edward Elgar (1857-1934) who was born to a family who owned a music shop. In essence, he was always surrounded by music and musicians. It also gave him the chance to learn several instruments, some nominally and others well. Of the ones he grasped with greatest intent were piano and violin.

Growing up Catholic in a predominantly Protestant area drew forth many of the same challenges that Gustav Mahler would find in terms of prejudices, except that Elgar found the strength to hold onto his faith through the woman he would eventually marry. She was his final and most enduring love, named Caroline Alice. Again, he bucked the traditional British class by marrying “up” while she, the daughter of a well-known major, married “down” for the time being, at least.

Slowly and impressively, Elgar honed his style until it became unmistakably his. The fullness and cleverness of his orchestration in the work, “Variations on an Original Theme,” known more familiarly as the “Enigma Variations,” are a marvel to anyone who studies the work in its written form. His use of dynamics, voicing balances, and the oh-so-right instrument choices are fodder for modern-day film composers. Every time you hear the piece it is like reading Shakespeare: you find something new with every hearing.

Thus, the British Empire would lay claim to a champion for the music of the concert hall and smaller venues with his chamber music, as well. He would also lay claim to that which is desired by every British boy and that was knighthood, as it happened for him in 1904. This honor was just the beginning of such that he would receive worldwide. How do we tend to honor him in America? Go to any college graduation and listen to the music played while the students process down the aisles and you will almost always hear a household tune always associated with that occasion: Pomp and Circumstance #1 in D major.

Join Music Director & Conductor Manny Laureano, for the concert, “Stories and Enigmas featuring Michael Sutton, violin, and Gary Briggle, narrator. The concert takes place on Sunday, February 25, 2018, at 3 p.m., at the Gideon S. Ives Auditorium at the Masonic Heritage Center (11411 Masonic Home Drive, Bloomington)

To learn more about the concert, click here. You can order tickets online through the Masonic Heritage Center Box Office, or by calling 800.514.ETIX.