UA composer creates 'Many Moods of Music' for Children's Concert Society's 75th anniversary
Thousands of kids will get in on the action at the Akron Civic Theatre April 5 and 6 when Children's Concert Society celebrates 75 years of enriching the lives of Akron-area school children through the performing arts.
Students have been preparing with music teachers in their schools for a big sing-along at the Civic with local composer James Wilding, who composed "The Many Moods of Music" for Children's Concert Society's milestone anniversary.
The nonprofit organization commissioned Wilding, professor of composition and theory at the University of Akron since 2002, to create the celebratory piece for children. It will have its world premiere next week, performed by the Freedom Brass Band in four student concerts at the Civic, with the kids joining in to sing the final two sections of the piece.
A total of about 3,000 students in kindergarten through third grade are expected to attend the four celebratory concerts next week, from Akron Public Schools and two Akron parochial schools.
They'll take in the wonders of the Akron Civic Theatre's atmospheric clouds and Moorish palace design. The 45-minute brass band concert will be preceded by organ music on the historic Mighty Wulitzer.
"Getting to be in that beautiful Akron Civic Theatre, the kids are astounded," said Margo Snider, who's been active with Children's Concert Society since the 1980s.
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Concert hall experiences are offered twice a year to all grade school children in Summit County, including public, private and parochial schools and home schoolers. That includes fall concerts for fourth- through eighth-graders and spring concerts for kindergarten through third-graders.
Children's Concert Society also offers free in-school concerts in Summit County and beyond, featuring local professional musicians and UA graduate students.
The mission is to foster music appreciation in children through live music experiences. To make that accessible as possible, tickets to Children's Concert Society concerts at the Civic are $5 and the organization provides free bus transportation for schools.
Each student will receive a commemorative 75th anniversary pencil at the concerts.
"It's amazing to me that all this has been going on forever, continuously," Snider said of the 75 years of concerts, which were offered to schools online during the pandemic.
More: Children’s Concert Society brings music to schools virtually
Preparing to celebrate
To get the kids involved in the celebration, Wilding created a video study guide for "The Many Moods of Music" that goes through the children's singing parts phrase by phrase, so their music teachers can teach it to them for the big concert.
Wilding breaks his composition down by talking about different sections with emphatic, majestic, menacing and exuberant moods, plus flowing and march sections.
"When the kids think about the feelings that they can have when they listen to the music, I think they can start to understand a little bit about the mystery of music and the beauty of it," said Wilding, 49. "If you really listen to it, you can connect to it in a beautiful way."
The composer, who created the work on his digital Clavinova piano, wrote lyrics for the kids that include, "The many moods of music are felt by you and me" and "Music has emotions felt by you and me."
On April 5 and 6, he'll be on the Civic stage, leading the students in song for the work's world premiere.
Learning experience for composer
Wilding, born and raised in South Africa and of British heritage, had to learn how to write for brass band for this commission.
"The brass band is a British tradition that generally speaking has cornets instead of trumpets. The cornet is kind of like a mellow-sounding trumpet," he said.
He worked with longtime colleague Tucker Jolly, leader of the Freedom Brass Band and UA professor emeritus of tuba and euphonium, visiting band rehearsal and learning how to create the melody for a cornet-heavy ensemble and mix the other brass voices.
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Wilding also studied scores by British composers, including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Malcolm Arnold and Gustav Holst, who wrote for brass band.
"The exact mix of this instrumentation was new to me," Wilding said. "The cornet are kind of like what the violins would be in the orchestra. There's just tons of them."
The composer, who has an undergraduate degree from Youngstown State University and a doctorate in composition and theory from Kent State University, also was commissioned by Akron's Tuesday Musical to write the work "Homeland Portraits" for Escher String Quartet for Tuesday Musical's 130th anniversary in 2017.
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Children's Concert Society's celebration will continue into May, where the group will highlight Wilding's 75th anniversary composition at "Diamond, Dames and Dancing," a diamond jubilee May 13 at Fairlawn Country Club. For more information, see www.childrensconcertsociety.org.
Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children's Concert Society timeline
1948: Children's Concert Society is created as an offshoot of the Women’s Educational Committee of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, founded by Betty King. It collaborates with Tuesday Musical to bring the Cleveland Orchestra to the Akron Armory, with tickets costing 50 cents.
1952: An executive secretary is hired to run the organization.
1953: Ralph Gillman, head of music education for Akron Public Schools, recommends that Children's Concert Society create a student music composition contest, now called the Scholastic Composers Contest.
1954: Chamber music is brought into Akron's Lincoln and Findley schools.
1959: Forty-five concerts are brought into the schools, consisting of string, brass and woodwind ensembles.
1965: Concerts move to the Cathedral of Tomorrow, with children coming from Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Hudson and Medina.
1966: The Children's Concert Society office moves to Stan Hywet.
1970: In-school concerts are expanded to include choirs, piano concerts, ballet, opera and a Renaissance recorder ensemble.
1972: The Children's Concert Society office and programs move to E. J. Thomas Hall.
1997: Akron native and Children's Concert Society alumnus Roger Zahab composes a trumpet fanfare for the organization's 50th anniversary.
2005: Concerts are presented at the Akron Civic Theatre, which continues to this day.
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Children's Concert Society marks 75 years of enriching kids' lives