The Virginia Arts Festival brings in an important lineup of international performers each year. Working almost behind the scenes is another festival event helping to produce the next generation of composers.
The John Duffy Composers Institute held during the festival gathers together top musical theater artists, singers and future composers for an intensive two-week workshop. The composers' polished works can be heard at a free "Masterworks in the Making" concert at 2 p.m. today in Chandler Recital Hall on the Old Dominion University campus.
Duffy, a two-time Emmy winner and founder of Meet the Composer, a national organization that fosters new music, is the wise facilitator overseeing a series of discussion sessions and rehearsals. The six conducting fellows, who are chosen by application and come from around the world, spend two weeks listening, writing and watching their own compositions come to life.
Giving them valuable guidance are some of America's best musical theater talents. This year's roster includes Libby Larsen, one of America's most important opera and classical music composers; composer, bandleader, and saxophonist Fred Ho; composer Ricky Ian Gordon; and librettist Mark Campbell. The rest of the faculty includes music director Alan Johnson, vocal coach Patrick Mason, and professional dramaturge Rhoda Levine.
Today's concert marks the end of the institute. Highlights of this year's activities were a master class and concert by Larsen; a lecture with Ho on his martial arts opera and social justice; and a discussion with Gordon and Campbell about their new work, " Rappahannock County," which will debut next April during the 15th annual Virginia Arts Festival.
Sessions were held at the F. Ludwig Diehn Composers Room at ODU, a center built with funds provided by this composer and businessmen who lived in Norfolk. Additional funding is provided by the F. Ludwig Diehn Fund of the Norfolk Foundation and the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.
Dedicated to the creation and performance of new music by living composers, the Duffy institute is a rare and valuable resource on today's contemporary music scene.
For more information on the institute or the "Masterworks in the Making" free final concert, visit http://www.vafest.org or call 282-2822.
PCT celebrates a half-century
Peninsula Community Theatre is marking its 50th anniversary this season. Last night, the community theater entertained several hundred invited guests at an "An Evening of Memories, Entertainment and a Look Forward."
For many years the community theater worked out of a large space on Marshall Avenue in Newport News. In 1994 they moved into a former Hilton Village movie theater at Main Street and Warwick Boulevard. Renamed the PCT Village Playhouse, the space has helped the theater revitalize its mission and expand its membership.
The PCT season usually begins with a musical in August. This summer's selection is "Bye Bye Birdie," and auditions will take place June 13. The 2010-2011 lineup includes "Bell, Book and Candle" in October, "A Christmas Carol" in December, "Two By Two" in February-March and " Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution" in May. The box office is 595-5728, and additional information is available online at http://www.pctlive.org.
Peninsula Community Theatre 10251 Warwick Blvd., Newport News.
Sight-reading orchestra returns
For the fifth season, conductor Guy Hayden is organizing his Summer Sight Reading Orchestra.
Beginning July 11 and continuing every Sunday through August 15, musicians can gather to sight-read music masterworks. The group meets from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Universalist-Unitarian Fellowship, 415 Youngs Mill Lane, Newport News.
The repertoire includes Johannes Brahms: Four symphonies, two overtures, "Variations on a Theme by Haydn" and Serenade No. 1; Ludwig van Beethoven: Symphony No. 4; Ernst Bacon: Elegy, and other works.
There are no fees, no auditions, and participants are asked to bring their own music stands.
For more information, contact Hayden at 224-1275.
WHRO-TV upcoming programming
WHRO-TV, Channel 15, is lightening things up this summer with some special pops programming.
"4TROOPS: Live from the Intrepid," airing at 8 tonight, looks at a new pop vocal group made up of U.S. combat veterans who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group includes Williamsburg native Ron Henry. The group got its start when they would jam in their bunks after a long day in the field and try to recall a slice of home. 4TOOPS now comes together to sing on behalf of all troops, to honor their sacrifices and to create awareness for their needs.
" Paul McCartney: Good Evening New York City," airing at 10 p.m. Wednesday, captures the famed rocker during his historic three-night christening of New York's Citi Field in July 2009. Standout songs from the Beatles, Wings and McCartney's solo career include "Drive My Car," "Got to Get You Into My Life," "Back in the USSR" and "Band On the Run."
David Nicholson can be reached at 247-4794 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.