Music Director Candidate Paul Haas to Conduct “Still Points & Turning Worlds” with Guest Pianist Awadagin Pratt

Paul Haas, the second nominee for the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra’s search for a new music director, will be guest conductor for the orchestra’s Classics Series concert “Still Points & Turning Worlds.”

Concerts on October 8 and 9 will highlight the music of Beethoven, Prokofiev and acclaimed contemporary composer Jessie Montgomery.

Pianist Awadagin Pratt has performed at the White House three times, including in November 2009, when he was one of four artists chosen to perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama.

Winston-Salem Symphony, provided

Awadagin Pratt will return to Winston-Salem to perform Montgomery’s “Rounds” for piano and strings.

“In recent years, Montgomery has become one of the most prominent living composers, changing the face of American classical music and leveling the playing field for women and composers of color,” said the Winston-Salem Symphony. “Montgomery was influenced by the imagery and themes of TS Eliot’s evocative poem ‘Four Quartets’, which includes the line ‘At the fixed point of the revolving world’ and provides the title of the concert.”

People also read…

Jessie Montgomery


Winston-Salem Symphony, provided

“Rounds” is one of Montgomery’s most recent works and was created in collaboration with Pratt and premiered in March by Pratt and Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra.

E. Merritt Vale, president and CEO of Winston-Salem Symphony, said in a statement that the organization is thrilled to welcome its second music director nominee.

“We hope you will join us in the concert hall for some truly exciting music and that you will come to the various events throughout the week to meet Paul Haas, who is an innovative artist and an exciting conductor” , Vale said. “We’re relying on public input to choose our next musical director and would like to know what you think of his onstage and offstage presence!”

The concert

“Like Eliot’s poem about time standing still, the concert features music influenced by the winds of war, which have seemingly stopped the world again and again,” said the Winston-Salem Symphony.

The concert will open with Beethoven’s performance of Coriolanus as he prepares to besiege Rome and close with Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony, an inspiring work written at the end of World War II.

“For me, it’s a program about war, basically, and the resilience of the human spirit that we see in the face of war,” Haas said.

He said the music is powerful, as well as amazing to direct and listen to.

“It really is some of the best music out there,” he said. “It really speaks to us and everyone can relate to it.”

Haas said that “Overture to Coriolanus”, op. 62, is a “breathtaking opening, but one that ends with that dark moment when Coriolanus dies. I put it there to get the audience in the right frame of mind for the rest of the program, to get us into the space where Prokofiev’s symphony can have the maximum impact.

As a conductor who loves surprises, Haas mentioned that the audience will have a musical surprise at this concert.

“It will be a great way for the public to get to know me,” he said.

The driver

Haas, a bandleader and composer, grew up in San Francisco, California, and now lives in New York with his family.

Paul Haas


Winston-Salem Symphony, provided

He started playing the violin in kindergarten and sang in the Grace Cathedral Choir as a boy soprano in San Francisco.

Haas is a graduate of Yale University and the Julliard School, where he received a master’s degree in orchestral conducting. He also studied opera conducting in Dresden, Germany at the Hochschule für Musik.

“I played instruments and sang in elementary school and high school, and started composing and arranging at the same time in high school,” Haas said. “I officially started directing at Yale University.”

Haas has been Music Director of the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas since 2010 and the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra since 2017.

He was at the start of a promising conducting career in 2006 when he conceived and produced a concert project called REWIND, “which was a reaction against the stuffy nature of standard classical music performance and featured performers surrounding the audience, sculptures hanging from the ceiling, and theatrical lighting design,” the Winston-Salem Symphony said in a statement.

The project was a success and prompted Haas to found Sympho, an organization devoted to creating and performing unusual programs in unusual places.

Haas said he had spent a lot of time attending orchestra concerts over the years, where he found the needs of the audience were not recognized.

“There’s a visual component to the performance,” Haas said. “There is a level of energy in the performance. I’ve always wanted concerts to take me with them. I wanted to be transported and carried from start to finish, so I started Sympho with REWIND as an experience… Can I create a concert experience where the audience was involved and engaged from the moment they entered the venue until he left? And that’s what I did. »

Over the past decade, 15 commissions have come from a variety of venues, including Park Avenue Armory and Rubin Museum of Art in New York, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Anchorage Museum of Art in Alaska, and Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design in Arkansas. .

“I have been commissioned by many different places and organizations to bring their spaces to life,” Haas said. “I guess I kind of became a performance artist that way.”

Haas said his greatest strength as a bandleader is “my love of music and my joy in sharing that love with other people, whether it’s the musicians on stage with me or the audience members and anyone else. I have a big heart and I like to share it.

He added, “I’m a skilled musician with a lot of experience in playing, conducting and writing. I love being able to share all of this with everyone in the room. And my experience as a composer on several occasions is a great help as a conductor because I approached music as a creator, a conductor and a performer at the same time. I see it from all sides. »

Haas heard performances by the Winston-Salem Symphony Orchestra on videos.

“It’s an amazing orchestra, and I’m so excited to come, get to know the musicians in the orchestra, work with them, and make amazing music together,” he said.

While visiting Winston-Salem in the spring for his interview as a semi-finalist for the position of music director, Haas said he had a fantastic time.

“I was totally overwhelmed by everything that was going on at Winston-Salem,” he said. “It’s beautiful. I’m totally into nature and growing things, so I was mesmerized by all the trees and the tech district.

He said he got to see some great and fun places to perform outdoors in the city.

Haas is also a farmer and has around 200 trees growing in two orchards.

“And I garden and I have chickens,” he said.

Guest pianist

Born in Pittsburgh, Pratt began studying piano at age 6. At 16, he entered the University of Illinois, where he studied piano, violin and conducting.

He then enrolled at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, where he became the first student to receive degrees in three areas of performance – piano, violin and conducting.

In 1992 Pratt won the Naumburg International Piano Competition and received an Avery Fisher Career Fellowship two years later. Since then he has performed at Lincoln Center, Kennedy Center, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Orchestra Hall Chicago, New Jersey Performing Arts Center and many more. He has performed with orchestras across the United States, toured Japan four times, and performed in Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Israel, Colombia, and South Africa. He is also a faculty member of the Eastern Music Festival.

He has performed at the White House three times, including in November 2009, when he was one of four artists chosen to perform for First Lady Michelle Obama and President Barack Obama.

Haas said he met Pratt years ago when they both conducted at the National Conducting Institute hosted by the National Symphony Orchestra.

“I can’t wait to see him again,” Haas said. “He’s a wonderful human being and obviously a great artist.”

About Michael Terry

Check Also

A large canvas of 16th century Spain

CHICAGO—“Don Carlos” is considered by many opera lovers to be Verdi’s greatest work, and for …