The Wilmington Symphony Orchestra played an original composition at the Cameron Art Museum (CAM) to celebrate the life and work of significant American painter Minnie Evans on what would have been her 129th birthday. The piece, entitled “Miss Evans’ Visions,” was composed by AJ Robinson, a young composer originally from Wilmington. While the afternoon concert was a loving tribute to Evans and her idiosyncratic artworks, everything was tied together by a shared sense of place and how a single environment can inspire artists across many generations.

The concert began with three chamber ensembles from the Wilmington Symphony Youth Orchestra (WSYO), which gives young students the creative opportunity to learn and play chamber music with personalized instruction. This program has been one of WSO’s most fruitful endeavors. Robinson, the afternoon’s featured composer, is an alumnus; just last month WSO played with soloist Molly Hines, who also began her musical education with WSO’s youth programs. The level of talent coming up through these programs really shone during the afternoon concert at CAM.

Liz Scanlon, executive director of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra, introduced the first portion of the concert. She highlighted the importance of the youth programs and the virtuosity of their students. The afternoon’s selections were all chosen to reflect artists’ fascinations with their surroundings and their environments. She noted that all the featured composers took inspiration from the natural environments, cities, and towns in which they lived. “It’s the perfect pairing to introduce Minnie Evans,” she said.

The first youth ensemble, a quartet mentored by WSO’s Sarah Hand, opened with a chamber arrangement of Lady Gaga‘s seminal hit “Poker Face” before moving on to a tricky selection. The young musicians played Mozart‘s Divertimento No. 1 in D, which demonstrated how technically ambitious the youth program can be — learning such difficult music at a young age must be a key factor to why so many of WSYO’s students grow into such competent professionals.

The second group, a trio mentored by WSO’s Roy Robuck, performed works from Schubert and Beethoven. During the latter’s composition, String Trio in G, Op. 9 No. 1: IV. Presto, the young string players really synced up, tapping into that interpersonal connection needed to play difficult chamber music. Cellist Hana Hagestrom maneuvered her instrument with grace, and violinist Aria Diloreto, who did double duty by playing in two of the afternoon’s three ensembles, made it seem effortless.

The final trio of the afternoon, mentored by WSO’s Brent Trubia, was the eldest of the three groups, and they took technical proficiency to the next level. They played selections from Julius Klengel, Mozart, and Haydn. Violinist Saybren Long conveyed deep feeling through his instrument, even while navigating the rapid-fire sections of Haydn’s Trio in G Hoboken XV: 25: III. Rondò all’ongarese. During Mozart’s Trio VI K. 254: I. Allegro Assai, the trio really shone — Long effectively left room for pianist Austin Campbell to come through. In this piece, the piano and the violin played off each other marvelously while being supported expertly by the cello, played by Wyatt Wooddell.

Scanlon introduced the pièce de résistance of the afternoon: “Miss Evans’ Visions.” As mentioned above, this piece was composed by  Robinson and was based on Evans’ 1966 work “Untitled (Face Surrounded by Angels, Birds, and White Winged Creatures).” Robinson composed the piece as a modified palindrome to mirror Evans’ use of symmetry, a wonderful bit of insight into the composer’s theoretical mindset. Robinson is interested in creating music that interacts with other artforms. This piece demonstrates how one might translate a painting into sound; according to Scanlon, he is also interested in creating a piece that “involves visual arts and dance.”

“Miss Evans’ Visions” was performed by members of the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra. Fittingly abstract, its obscure rhythms and intonations conveyed the mysticism of Evans’ art. The audience gave a standing ovation at the end of the concert before wandering around the salon looking at selections of Evans’ paintings on display from CAM’s collection.

More than anything, the concert highlighted the immense talent that Wilmington develops. Whether it be through the spiritual-visionary hands of an artist like Minnie Evans or through an intricate and ambitious youth program, Wilmington seems to foster growth, artistry, and creativity!