March 24, 2020
To say that the past few weeks have brought change to our world would be a gross understatement. In a period of just a few weeks our world has been turned upside down: international borders have been closed, industries have slowed to a halt, grocery stores have run out of basic supplies, schools have closed and all of us have been asked to stay at home and practice “social distancing.” In the midst of all of these disruptions however, one inescapable fact seems to have emerged: that no matter how fearful we are and no matter what horrifying statistics the morning news may bring, we continue to have a deep and life-sustaining need for connection.
As a musician, I have based my life and work on the value and importance of connectedness. Although there are arguably some musical pursuits which are solitary in nature, it is in our connections – the rehearsals, the concerts, the conversations, the arguments, the sharing – that we experience the true meaning and value inherent in a musical life. I know that you are as shocked and saddened as I am by the circumstances that have overcome our world as a result of the COVID-19 virus. But while our priorities have been drastically reorganized due to matters largely beyond our control, I believe that we are still (perhaps now more than ever) actively seeking those moments of connectedness that bring resonance and beauty to our lives.
During this period that seems to be fraught with chaos, I would like to offer a recommendation for maintaining our collective sanity: continue in whatever way you can to enjoy and sustain your musical life. My personal prescription for my own sanity has been 1) to listen to music constantly, 2) to engage in daily score study, 3) to compose, 4) to rediscover an intense relationship with the piano, and 5) to engage with others online in musical conversations and activities. This regimen seems to be serving me well and I am recommending a dose of it for all of us.
I will look forward to connecting with all of the orchestra members in the days ahead. Please take care of yourselves physically and emotionally. Song and I send our best wishes and prayers for continued good health to each and every one of you.
We are now in the final season of our twenty-five year anniversary celebration. It has been a remarkable year, filled with many memorable events. It has also been a very emotional year for me. Many people who played important roles in the shaping of my life have taken their final bow over the past three hundred and sixty-five days – my father (an artist and founding member of the RMS and faithful supporter the orchestra), my uncle Lee Hale (producer of the famed Dean Martin Show and faithful supporter of me and my career), and, most recently, Dr. Richard J. Ernst, former president of Northern Virginia Community College.
On Saturday, I attended a memorial service for Dr. Ernst that was both deeply moving and inspirational in so many ways. I knew Dr. Ernst and his family well, and was reminded throughout the service of the rich legacy that Dr. Ernst left behind. As president of the college for thirty years, Dr. Ernst presided over the period in which the NVCC-Annandale Symphony Orchestra was inaugurated. His life was dedicated to bringing good things to the lives of so many people. As stated in Dr. Ernst’s obituary, “He was proud to open the doors of educational opportunity to all who were seeking it, regardless of their ability to pay or their citizenship.”
As I reflect on Dr. Ernst’s life and work, I am deeply grateful. Grateful for all those who gave so much to establish the NOVA-Annandale Symphony Orchestra, grateful to those who have sustained it throughout its twenty-five year history, and grateful to all of you who in so many marvelous ways continue to cherish and support the orchestra in its mission of bringing joy and beauty to our community. It has been one of the great blessings of my life to be your music director, and I look forward to the many wonderful things that the orchestra will bring to the greater NOVA community and beyond in the years to come.
Christopher E. Johnston,
September 2, 2019
Over its nearly twenty-five year history, the NOVA-Annadale Symphony Orchestra has often performed concerts celebrating the musical heritage of various cultures of the world. In keeping with that tradition, the orchestra’s spring concert will feature music composed exclusively by Hispanic composers. Entitled “¡Víva la Música! An Evening of Hispanic Music,” the evening will include works by composers from Spain, Argentina, Mexico, and Cuba. Highlights will include the Symphony in D by Spanish composer Juan Crisostomo de Arriaga (a contemporary of Beethoven), the fiery Danzon No. 2 by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez, and the haunting Concierto de Aranjuez by Joachim Rodrigo, featuring guitar soloist Matthew Trkula.
While the music of these composers is well-known and beloved in their countries of origin, is it is often under-programmed in contemporary American orchestral concerts. That is indeed a shame, for the music of these composers offers much to the listener as it is rich in rhythmic content, vibrant in orchestral color, and filled with beautiful soaring melodies. It is these musical qualities that the orchestra will bring to life for our audience on May 4th. While it is often great fun to talk about the inherent qualities in a musical composition, we know that it is always best to let the music speak for itself, so please plan to join us on May 4th. ¡Viva La Musica!
-Christopher Johnston, NOVA-Annandale Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor
During its nearly 25-year history, the NOVA-Annandale Symphony Orchestra has performed many challenging works, from Beethoven symphonies to ragtime compositions. But within the long list of works that the orchestra has performed, the Enigma Variations of Edward Elgar must rank among the most challenging, in terms technical difficulty and interpretive demands. The work stands as one of Elgar’s most respected compositions and was largely responsible for catapulting the composer to a position of international renown. After its initial London premiere in 1899, the Variations received immediate critical acclaim and numerous international performances. The piece remains an enigma in many ways, and to date, no one has conclusively unraveled the mystery surrounding its title. It is a piece of many moods, haunting and humorous, decisive and delicate, powerful and passionate. It is my hope that as the orchestra has grown from the study and preparation of this great work and that you, our audience, will also be moved by its beauty and power. It is in every way a monumental work and its performance on November 10, 2017 will serve, I am sure, as a benchmark in the life and history of the orchestra.
-Christopher Johnston, NVCC-Annandale Symphony Orchestra Music Director and Conductor