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An Early Valentine: Carroll Symphony Orchestra to Perform Beethoven, Schoenberg, Debut New Works by Young Composers

Courtesy of CSO

The Carroll Symphony Orchestra will perform Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony no.1, and the world premiere of a new work by Carrollton native Katahj Copley on February 10, at 7:30 p.m., at the Carroll County Performing Arts Center. The orchestra will also present two winning compositions from the 2021 CSO Young Composer Competition, one of which was composed by a fifth-grade student from Bremen.

Beethoven’s 5th is a landmark composition, for the audience because it is often the first symphonic piece people hear as children, and for the composer as he was struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts over the loss of his hearing. CSO Conductor Terry Lowry said, “We are really excited to give our audience the opportunity to hear it live.”

“The Chamber Symphony,” he continued, “is one of the most beautiful pieces Schoenberg ever composed and, according to the publisher, this performance by the CSO marks the first time the full orchestra version has been performed in Georgia, and only the third time it has been performed in the United States since 2009.”

Katahj Copley (b. 1998) is a graduate of Carrollton High School and the University of West Georgia, from which he holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Composition. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Composition at the University of Texas at Austin.

The CSO will be performing the world premiere of Copley’s Equinox. When asked about the inspiration for this work, the composer said, “The equinox is the time when the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the geometric center of the Sun’s disk. This occurs twice each year, around 20 March and 23 September. However, while writing this piece at the end of 2021 I became engaged by the symbolism of the word itself. In some cultures the equinox represents the balance of life and death–old and new. With this concept I wanted that piece to embark on a journey of excitement, of trouble, and of wonder. The piece begins with this huge sixteenth note motif that is felt throughout the work–a sense of adventure, risk, and at some moments danger. Then the main theme enters to be a guide throughout this journey. From mystery to danger, the work moves to a lyrical texture that gives off the feeling of excitement and happiness of not knowing where life will take you.”

Copley’s first work, Spectra, premiered on November 14, 2017, played by the University of West Georgia’s Saxophone Ensemble. Since that time Copley has written over sixty pieces for a variety of ensemble settings–including more than twenty-five for wind band. These works have been performed by local high schools, such as Carrollton High School (his alma mater), Mt. Zion High School, Villa Rica High School, and Central High School. He has had pieces performed by schools throughout the country as well. During his time at the University of West Georgia, Copley had written pieces for UWG’s Brass Ensemble, Concert Choir, Saxophone Ensemble, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble and Wind Ensemble. His compositions have been performed and commissioned by colleges, organizations, universities, and professional ensembles, including the 1st Infantry Brass Choir, Rhode Island Recording Ensemble, Nu Alpha chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi at Georgia State University, Axos Saxophone Quartet, the Admiral Launch Duo, and the Atlanta Wind Symphony. Copley has also received critical acclaim internationally with his works being performed in Canada, the United Kingdom, China, and Australia.

On Thursday February 10th not only is Equinox being performed in Carrollton, but Copley’s Brass Chamber work titled Scherzo Verde will be premiering at the Texas Music Educator Association In-Service Conference, performed by the Cavaliers Brass along with six world-class brass musicians.

Aside from composing, Copley is an excited educator who enjoys teaching young musicians the joy of discovering music and why music is a phenomenal language.

He concluded, “Music for me has always been this impactful thing in my life. It can soothe, it can enrage, it can quiet, and it can evoke emotions that are beyond me and this world we live in. I believe that music is the ultimate source of freedom and imagination and the most freedom I have had as a musician was through composing. Composition is like me opening my heart and showing the world my drive, my passion, and my soul.”

Two of the winning compositions in the 2021 Young Composer Competition will also debut, the elementary-school division winner “A Day in the Park” by fifth-grader Ada Key from Bremen, Georgia, and “The Expanse” by high-school division winner Annika Joshi from Johns Creek.

A student of Lowry, Ada has been studying piano for three years and also plays alto saxophone with the Bremen Middle School and Academy Band. She says her favorite subjects are reading and math and that she loves to draw and create when not in school. This year was her first time to enter the state-wide competition which is open to any student in K-12 anywhere in Georgia.

When asked what she had enjoyed most about the competition, Ada replied, “I like the orchestration and my theme. The title of my piece is A Day at the Park, and the orchestration was a lot of fun to do.” She said she is nervous about the debut of her piece, “like anyone else would be but also excited to hear it played by the orchestra. I look forward to getting feedback from the other musicians and anyone else.” The young composer concluded, “I would also like to thank the creators of the starting lines because they were amazing and allowed so much creativity and opportunity.”

High-school division winner Annika Joshi, from John’s Creek, played the violin for a few years and has been studying piano for approximately ten years. She is the student of Ms. Soboleva. She said her favorite subjects at school are math, chemistry, and physics, and then continued, “I enjoy all things Harry Potter. Besides composing, I like doing robotics and playing piano at senior living centers.”

Having entered the Young Composers Competition six times, Annika has won all six times as she has aged through each of the three divisions. Of this year’s composition Annika said, “I have enjoyed exploring harmony and tonality in this piece. I also liked really dissecting the given theme and seeing how many directions I could take it in. In terms of orchestration–I enjoyed listening to Debussy and Ravel and exploring their manipulation of sound.”

Looking forward to the premier of her piece on March 10th, she exclaimed, “I’m really excited! It is always a pleasure to hear my music played live, and I look forward to sharing my piece with the performers and the audience. I am so grateful for this opportunity to hear my music come alive–it’s a dream come true! It’s a struggle for student composers to get their music performed, and I’d like to thank the CSO for creating this opportunity.”

The CSO Masterworks Winter Concert will be February 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Carroll County Schools Performing Arts Center. Tickets $18 and $10 and are available at the Carrollton Center for the Arts or online at cprcad.myboxoffice.us/program/cso-masterworks-winter-concert-1637

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Alice Ridley-Teal
Six-time STAR teacher, Alice taught Advanced Placement English, literature, composition, speech and theater for over twenty years, part of which time she also served as Director of Admissions, Development, Public Relations, and Alumni at Oak Mountain Academy. She is the managing partner of Ridley-Teal Properties and content editor for the City Menus. She is a board member of the Carroll Symphony Orchestra and enjoys playing flute with the Carroll Community Wind Ensemble.