Symphonic odyssey trips into musical alchemy

PhyllisIn the English language, “odyssey” has come to refer to an epic voyage. In that spirit, Dearborn Symphony Music Director and Conductor Kypros Markou booked a stunning concert adventure titled “Symphonic Odyssey!”

The concert, April 17 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, highlighted guest trombonist Ken Thompkins, Dearborn Symphony musicians and composers from around the world.  Borderless and from classic to the more contemporary, the styling of these musical giants melded the trip nowhere short of its final destination, but to a place — if it had name — could be called Musical Alchemy.

Under the adventurous baton of Markou and with the help of Thompkins, the daring Dearborn Symphony took an audacious epic voyage. Unyielding performance mastery on the part of conductor and symphony, along with power elements scored into the works of Richard Strauss, Henri Tomasi, Efrain Amaya, and Ottorino Respighi, gave Thompkin’s trombone brass-turned-gold the opportunity to shine.

In the fifth concert of the season, Markou’s first stop began with the sounds of Austria with Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks.” The night opened with what began as an opera-turned-tone-poem in which Till was depicted by two themes: the horn that introduces him and the clarinet which suggests this laughter as he plots his pranks.

The symphonic delivery of this work was no joke as a seamless flow of sound set the tone for this most interesting night of music appreciation.

The hum of France followed with Tomasi’s “Concerto for Trombone & Orchestra,” a thoughtful challenging work that demonstrated that the Dearborn Symphony has come into its own.  Adding to the impeccable performance, Thompkins’ rich tones and masterful execution articulated Thomasi’s  philosophy: “Music that doesn’t come from the heart isn’t music.”

The second half of the adventure began with a tour. The audience boarded for a sea voyage with reverberations of American composer Amaya’s “Maid of Blue.” Tour guide Markou gave a brilliant explanation of the work, walking patrons carefully through the score using a sample measure so patrons could fully understand the nature of this piece before he began.

The seascape sounds of water called to young a girl, Soledad, believing from an early age she is the “guardian of the sea.”  The music described three main events: the first was the calling; second, the dive into the overwhelming throws of the water; and third, once tamed Soledad’s theme moving together with the sea gives rise to peace.

Landing with the buzz of Italy with Respighi’s “Pines of Rome” gave the symphony’s own the opportunity to glow. Guest Concertmaster Hai-Xin Wu gave an outstanding, notable performance on violin. Principal cellist Yawen Hsu delivered masterfully. Principal flute Dennis Carter was magnificent.  Ann Augustin gave an exceptional solo on French horn. Guest principal clarinetist Kip Franklin gave a powerful performance.

Trumpeters Michael McGowan, principal; John Hartwick; and Jason Borngesser were powerful on and off stage in the balcony creating symphonic surround sound. Steven Kegler, principal percussion delighted, with unique nature sounds particularly that of birds. And, pianist Jacqueline Csurgai-Schmitt lent an opulent flair to the “Pines” with her solo work.

Together with the symphony these musicians helped bring the musical show-trip to a breathless conclusion.

The symphony’s 2014-15 concert series concludes with the final concert of the season at 8 p.m. May 8 at the Ford Center. Continuing a long- standing tradition, the Dearborn Symphony will celebrate the future of classical music by featuring today’s outstanding young musicians playing the music of Suppe’ and Brahms.

Ticket prices range from $10 to $30 and can be bought in advance or at the door. For more information go to or call 313-565-2424.