Maestro David Hagy who has served as the conductor of the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra for thirty-five years, had a spectacular final subscription concert this past Saturday! Complete with four vocal soloists, an ensemble, and even a fifth-grade honors chorus, the concert was indeed a community effort and garnered broad support from the people of Salisbury who nearly filled the Keppel Auditorium at Catawba College. Featuring works of the late Stephen Sondheim, the production included staging, costuming, and an understated but effective lighting design. It was truly a pleasant night filled with music, nostalgia, and unity.

Selections from the night spanned Sondheim’s sixty-year career, including popular favorites from Company, Into the Woods, and Sweeney Todd. The four vocal soloists carried much of the production alongside the SSO, performing in fourteen of the seventeen selections. Notable performances include that of Matt Mundy, a true musical theatre tenor whose rendition of “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George was touching and genuine, calling to mind the emotional tribute given the Sunday following Sondheim’s death. This would ease us into intermission, which could not have prepared us for the dramatic transition into the Sweeney Todd suite. Accompanied by blood-red lighting, the orchestra performed a collection of motifs from the musical. This was a wonderful opportunity for the instrumentalists to display their power, as it was the longest piece performed without vocalists. Musical theatre fans likely found themselves swaying or humming along to the melodies of “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” and “Johanna,” which brought the concert to a haunting and beautiful halt amongst more lively and flashy selections. The orchestra was promptly joined by the vocalists for “My Friends.” Finally, the suite concluded with “The Ballad,” showcasing the full vocal ensemble and even the vocal stylings of Hagy himself.

As I stated earlier, this concert was clearly a community effort. The theatrical qualities of the concert made for a unique night of music. The lighting design by Christopher Zink added a much-needed element of visual interest with complex textures and movement. In particular, “Sunday” ended with a kaleidoscope of colors coating the ceiling, which made a moving moment, full of emotional depth. The staging, a product of collaboration between Hagy and keyboardist John Stafford, also added a level of theatricality that is often missed during concert versions of well-known musical hits. The ensemble, featuring thirty choir members from the Salisbury-Rowan Choral Society, Livingstone College, and Catawba College, excelled in imitating the grandiosity of the major Sondheim musical selections and providing the audience with yet another layer of exciting performance.

The night concluded with a look towards a bright future with “Our Time” from Merrily We Roll Along. Hagy noted before the piece that we should be excited about the future, even as seasons come to an end, giving a nod to the fifth-grade chorus onstage. The chorus, showcasing the talents of over fifty Rowan County students, performed alongside the orchestra and vocalists for the final two songs. The final piece was certainly a last hurrah for both the SSO and Hagy, and it was met with a standing ovation upon its conclusion.

It was truly heart-warming to see such local support for the musical arts in the Salisbury community. However, for faithful audiences who have spent years following the SSO through concerts like Pops at the Post and The Nutcracker, it comes as no surprise that Hagy would say his goodbye with such a nostalgic love letter to the community. Audiences at this concert saw a season of the SSO ending, with hope for the future through young musicians. “Celebrating Sondheim” was a celebration indeed, of the talents and accomplishments of the past, and of those that will carry on the tradition.

For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.