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Orchestra here on Va. tour
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Violin soloist Brendon Elliott (center) performs with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at Martinsville High School. Benjamin Rous is the orchestra’s conductor. The performance was part of the orchestra’s first Virginia tour. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

By TARA LUCAS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Virginia Symphony Orchestra made its debut performance in Martinsville on Friday night as part of its first tour of the commonwealth.

The show opened at Martinsville High School with “Overture to Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492.” The fast-paced, whimsical melody drew resounding applause at its finish.

Violinist Brendon Elliott performed a violin concerto, written by composer Adolphus Hailstork, during the first half of the show. Elliott’s performance produced high-pitched trills, trembling low tones and a standing ovation from the audience estimated at about 475 people.

According to a release, Elliott made his debut as a soloist at the age of 10 with the Hampton University Orchestra. Since then, he has been a soloist with several professional and community orchestras.

At the age of 13, he appeared on From the Top on NPR. Among other things, he earned the National Sphinx Competition Achievement Award in 2012 and is a three-time semi-finalist in that competition. Elliott attends the Curtis Institute of Music.

Orchestra conductor Benjamin Rous called Elliott “amazing.”

“Adolphus Hailstork lives in Virginia Beach and Brendon is from Virginia,” Rous said, which was a good way to tie Southwest Virginia into the orchestra’s performance.

Rous has been with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra for three and a half years.

“This is our first stop on the tour … the first time I’m doing some of these pieces,” he said, including the Hailstork piece.

“We’re on a fast tour … it’s great to see the different halls and play for different audiences. We play a lot of halls but this one sounds really, really good,” Rous of the Martinsville High School auditorium.

Eric Borenstein, president and executive director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, also praised the auditorium with its roomy stage.

“We’re excited about this stop and the next stop (in Blacksburg), especially this stop. We are thrilled to be here,” he said.

The second half of the show was centered around Paris, with selections by Claude DeBussy and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart before concluding with George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”

The familiar sound of the snare and clanging of symbols with the other instruments could have been mistaken for a parade. There were hand-clapping and toe-tapping parts to the performance before coming to a thunderous finish.

The audience responded with another standing ovation mixed with a few cheers and whistles.

“That Gershwin just blew me away,” said Barbara Parker, director of programs with Piedmont Arts Association (PAA).

Diane Vann of Henry County also praised the performance. “We’ve had the Roanoke Symphony” and now Virginia Symphony performing in Martinsville, she said, adding, “It’s great to have these sorts of things in a small town.”

The event was hosted by PAA as part of its On Stage! series. It also is supported in part by the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Thanks to grants from National Endowment for the arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts … we could have never brought them (Virginia Symphony) here without that support,” said Parker. The grants were specifically for touring rural areas.


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