RIC Symphony Orchestra, Diana McVey, to perform in Chester Concert, March 7

The Rhode Island College Symphony Orchestra – joined by guest soprano Diana McVey – will appear in the 16th Samuel and Esther Chester Performance Award Concert on Monday, March 7, at 8 p.m. in the Auditorium in Roberts Hall. Edward Markward will conduct.

Diana McVey

Edward Markward
McVey – an internationally known performer – will be featured soloist in the final work of Richard Strauss, “Vier letzte Lieder” (Four Last Songs). Strauss wrote “Vier letzte Lieder” in 1948 at the age of 94, but did not live to hear its premiere in London two years later.

According to Markward, friendship and death are recurring themes in Strauss' songs, though they are calm, and colored with a sense of acceptance and completeness.

Opening the program is Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's “Festina lente,” a famous Latin proverb meaning “make haste slowly.” Written in 1988 and modified in 1990, “Festina lente” is performed in three different tempos repeated seven times. Pärt's work is meant to be performed by a string orchestra and harp.

“Festina lente” takes the form of a mensuration canon – a composition that has a melody, and multiple imitations of that melody in other forms or voices.

“Although all voices begin together, after a tremendous climax and pause, they all follow each other to the final fading away at maximum pianissimo,” Markward said of the work.

During the composition, played in 3/4 time, the principal melody is played by violas; while the first and second violins play in counterpoint at twice the speed, the basses and cellos play at half the speed. The three groups of instruments are divided into canon and tintinnabuli voices.

Tintinnabuli, bell-like sounds coined by Pärt, were influenced by his earlier experiences with chant music.

“Tintinnabuli is the rule where the melody and accompaniment [the accompanying voice]...is one,” Pärt has said of the sound.

The final work on the program is Jean Sibelius's Symphony No. 2 in D major. Sibelius was a Finnish composer best known for a patriotic tone poem, “Finlandia.” A tone poem is an orchestral work with a single movement inspired by a story, image or other dramatic event.

A three-note motif at the beginning of Symphony No. 2 appears repeatedly, forming the basis for most of the material, exemplified in the fourth and final movement of the symphony.

McVey's skills as both a singer and actress have made her a much sought after performer. She was a finalist in the New England Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2003 and has been heard on WGBH, Boston.

McVey has sung in leading roles with Ocean State Lyric Opera, Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, and Opera Providence. She has been a soloist with the Eastern Connecticut Symphony, the Albany Symphony Orchestra and the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra (RICCO).

Markward, a professor of music, has been a faculty member at RIC since 1973. He has been the musical director and conductor for RICCO since 1987, and been a guest conductor for the Newport Music Festival and the Rhode Island Philharmonic.

Markward received the Choral Conductor of the Year Award from the Rhode Island Choral Directors Association, and the RIC Alumni Faculty of the Year Award.

The event is free, thanks to a grant given to the Rhode Island College Foundation by Samuel and Esther Chester. For general information on RIC performing and fine art events, visit www.ric.edu/pfa.