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Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra concert 'Ghosts and Witches' is March 17

The Susquehanna Symphony Orchestra continues its 35th anniversary season on St. Patrick's Day with a "Ghosts and Witches" concert.

Sheldon Bair, SSO founder and music director, noted that guest artists from Canada will be featured, and hinted that the concert may conclude with "a little something special for St. Patrick's Day." The music begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, at Bel Air High School at 100 Heighe St. Come early, at 6:30, for a chance to meet the guest composer, Ronald Royer. Tickets, which are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $10 for students, are available in advance at Preston's and Music Land in Bel Air, at the door or by clicking Ticket Leap at

Ronald Royer, of Ontario, Canada, will conduct the first half of the concert. He teaches and conducts at the University of Toronto Schools and serves as music director and conductor of the Scarborough Philharmonic in Ontario.

"A few years ago, the SSO performed a work by an Ontario composer who thought that Ron would be a good match for our orchestra," Bair said. "He will conduct Mussorgsky's 'Night on Bald Mountain,' which is about a night with witches on a bare mountain. It is a wonderful, and often bombastic, Russian work full of great melodies and lots of 'blood and guts.'"

Then Royer will conduct his own composition, a clarinet concerto called "Echoes," with his wife, Kaye Royer, as soloist. She is the principal clarinet for the Stratford Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Sinfonietta.

"The work is in three movements and is full of lovely melodies and 'athletic' clarinet solo passages which are sure to keep audience members riveted," Bair said. "Ron's music at times shows his affinity for writing for film, so film music enthusiasts have much to look forward to with this concerto."

For the second half of the program, Bair will take the podium to direct "Cavatina," a movement from a Beethoven string quartet which he describes as "moving and beautiful." Next he will lead the orchestra in "The Noon Witch," a short symphonic poem by Czech composer Antonin Dvorak. Based on the Slavic folk tale demon called Lady Midday, it tells the story of a restless child whose mother warns him that he must behave or, on the stroke of noon, the Noon Witch will get him. According to Bair, the work evokes the gruesome nature of the story.

Finally, the orchestra will perform Wagner's ever popular "Prelude to Die Meistersinger," the composer's only comedy for the stage.

"The overture is full of melodies and counterpoint," Bair said. "It frolics from one tune to the other, but has a powerful ending."

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