Mid-Atlantic Symphony to spotlight American composers

April 21, 2024

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra will present the Delaware premiere of Peter Boyer’s “Rhapsody in Red, White and Blue” at 7 p.m., Friday, May 3, at Cape Henlopen High School in Lewes.

The musical composition, commissioned by and featuring world-acclaimed pianist Jeffrey Biegel, celebrates the 100th anniversary of George Gershwin’s quintessential “Rhapsody in Blue” and will be premiered until 2026 in each of the 50 states to honor the 250th birthday of the United States of America in 2026. “The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, the Delmarva Peninsula’s only professional orchestra, is incredibly honored to premiere the work for both the states of Maryland and Delaware,” said Jeffrey Parker, MSO board president.

Michael Repper, the orchestra’s music director, is teaming with Biegel for the performance. 

The work is cast similarly to Gershwin’s in a single, multi-sectional movement that captures propulsive energy, along with allusions to blues influences and lyrical evocations of American vistas. Biegel, the piano soloist, has created a multifaceted career as a pianist, recording artist, composer and arranger. 

The American theme of the concert will be continued with Aaron Copland’s classical composition, “Appalachian Spring.” The much-loved piece was originally composed as a ballet score for choreographer Martha Graham. The music is imbued with Copland’s characteristic open harmonies, folk melodies and rhythmic vitality, reflecting his intention to create a distinctly American sound.

The third piece in the concert honors Native American folklore. ‘Chokfi,” the Chickasaw word for rabbit, is an important trickster legend within Southeast American Indian culture. It was composed by Jerod Tate, a Chickasaw classical composer, for the Oklahoma Youth Symphony. Different string and percussion techniques and colors represent the complicated and diabolical personality of this rabbit person, and incorporate a popular tribal church hymn as the melodic and musical base.

The Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, now in its 26th year, will conclude its local 2023-24 season performances with a woodwind and strings ensemble concert at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 18, at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth Beach.

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