Debbie Williamson made Kevin McMahon a musical offer that he could not refuse.
When McMahon, the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra’s music director and conductor, invited retiring SSO concertmaster Debbie Williamson to perform as a soloist at the SSO’s Oct. 3 concert, she had a better idea. Williamson invited McMahon, also an accomplished violinist, to join her with the SSO in performing Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins.
“She suggested she wanted to perform it with me,” said McMahon, who will be making his local playing debut. “It was the way she put it to me, that it will be something we’ll remember for the rest of our lives and it was important that we do it. It’s a fitting way to celebrate her 34 years with the Sheboygan Symphony.”
The Bach will begin Williamson’s final concert with the SSO, a highlight of the first concert of the Sheboygan Symphony’s 2015-16 season. The 7:30 p.m. performance is at the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Sheboygan. To purchase tickets, contact the SSO Office at (920) 452-1985.
Concertmasters provide a variety of behind-the-scenes functions, including determining how each section of the strings should play each piece (referred to as bowing) and tuning the orchestra. For conductors, they’re also like an assistant coach, McMahon said, offering helpful translation of information from the conductor to the orchestra.
Beyond those critical roles, Williamson also served in a leadership role with the Sheboygan Area Youth Symphony before conducting her final concert with that group last spring.
Asked to sum up Williamson in a single word, McMahon chose caring.
“She’s been a rock for the symphony,” McMahon said. “There are a lot of things the symphony has been able to accomplish because she’s been sitting in the concertmaster chair. It has to do with her talent, her natural ability and her leadership skills.
“She fits in especially well in a community orchestra because of her strong sense of community. She helps those around her get better and enjoy themselves more and just have fun.”
Also on the Oct. 3 program are the Piano Concerto No. 1 of Keith Emerson and Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite. Both pieces are classical compositions by composers who found fame as popular artists, especially Emerson who was one third of the 1970s English progressive rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP).
This will be the first time the SSO and McMahon have performed Emerson’s concerto, and they’re joined by pianist, composer and arranger Jeffrey Biegel, a close friend of Emerson, as soloist. McMahon said the piece will appeal to both classical music enthusiasts and any newcomers to the concert hall attracted by hearing a work by Emerson.
“There is a lot of tonal music and places where it’s filled with exuberance and joy, while some places there is an almost full-on rock driving pulse,” McMahon said. The general listener coming in brand new will find many attractive moments of extreme beauty and melody.”
Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite, which debuted in 1931, is a five-movement musical depiction of the Grand Canyon, from sunrise to sunset. It’s a piece that attracts both young and long-time listeners, McMahon said, thanks to its widespread use in music education programs.
The concert will conclude with a surprise encore, and while McMahon won’t give any exact details, he said he suspects the music will have people dreaming a dream as they leave the Weill Center.
1. The concert is Saturday, October 3, 2015 at 7:30 pm at the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts.
2. Tickets are available for the October 3rd concert. Ticket prices are $39, $35, $30, $22 and $15 for students. Tickets are available from the Symphony Office at 920- 452-1985 or the Weill Center ticket office at 920-208-3243. Tickets are also available in the box office two hours prior to concert.
3. The Interludes Pre-Concert talk, now being held at 806 N. 8th Street, is a free event for concert ticket holders. Space is limited, an R.S.V.P. is required. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 920-452-1985.
4. This concert is generously sponsored by Bank First National, Masters Gallery,The Perry Fund, Mary Lynne Donohue and Timothy Van Akerren and Terry House.