Dr. Charles Johnson, Music Director & Conductor
Bob Wall,
Associate Conductor

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Clear Lake Symphony

Conductor's Corner

by Dr. Charles Johnson
Conductor & Musical Director

Dr. Johnson provides an inside view of the music selection for each concert and guest artists.

2009 - 2010 Season


2008 - 2009 Season

February 21, 2009
February's concert opens with Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll.  One of only two purely orchestral works by this composer, it is a little gem.  Written as a surprise birthday and Christmas gift to his wife, Cosima, after the birth of his son, Siegfried, the work combines the elements of a lullaby and simple folk melody with the love theme from his opera, Siegfried, and a reference to the heroic Rhine Journey, from the same opera.

The second work is Dietter’s delightful Concerto for Two Bassoons.  Here we feature two of our orchestra members, Robyn Watson and Theresa Smith.

The concluding work is the Ravel orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.  This highly popular piece is a musical depiction of several works of art and architecture, including the Ballet of the Chicks in their Shells, the Hut on Fowl’s Legs, and The Great Gate of Kiev.  One of the classics of orchestration, it showcases all sections of the orchestra.


October 4, 2008
Our next concert will be a special collaboration with the Bay Area Chorus, performing  excerpts from famous operas.  We will feature famous choruses by Verdi, Mozart, Bernstein, Bizet and Donizetti, and orchestral exerpts by Wagner, Prokofiev, Haydn and Rossini, and will present the first performance of a suite from Puccini’s La Boheme.  There will truly be something for every classical music lover.

 We are particularly excited to have the opportunity to perform great literature that, while familiar to audiences, rarely lends itself to inclusion on a standard symphony concert.  We hope our audience will also welcome this change of pace and that we will be able to extend our relationship with the Bay Area Chorus to enable us to further expand our repertoire in the future.


2007 - 2008 Season

May 10, 2008
For our final concert of the season we will present a program featuring three English composers of the late 19th century.

Nearly everyone is familiar with Edward Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, which is routinely played at graduation exercises.  What few people know is that Elgar composed several more of these marches, which are seldom played.  We will present the second of these to open the evening. 

This will be followed by Brigg Fair, by Frederick Delius, the most impressionistic of the English composers.  It is a tone picture of the landscape surrounding a county fair, and its attendant activities. 

The concert will conclude with The Planets, the massive work by Gustav Holst.  It is in seven movements, each depicting one of the planets known to 19th century astronomers and the mystical qualities associated with them:  Mars, the Bringer of War; Venus, the Bringer of Peace; Mercury, the Winged Messenger; Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity; Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age; Uranus, the Magician; and Neptune, the Mystic.  


November 30 & December 1, 2007 (by Bob Wall)
Well, it is FALL!!!  The leaves are turning colors, the air is cool and crisp and we all are starting to bundle up for the weather!   Well, at least in part of the country that is the occasion.  Here we have short sleeve weather, air conditioning still on and grass turning brown because of the heat!!  Oh well, that is the Gulf Coast!
BUT - - it is time for the Clear Lake Symphony's annual "Christmas Pops" concert.  We will have two concerts again this year:  Friday, November 30 and Saturday, December 1.  The concerts will start at 7:30 PM at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.  Please note that there has been some publications that state that we start at 8:00 PM, but that is incorrect.  We are joined be the Gloria Dei Festival Choir again this year.  Mary Voigt is the director of that group and she will conduct a couple of pieces on the concert with the choir and orchestra. 
We will be playing several of the favorite Christmas tunes plus two songs arranged by Dr. Bradford Barlow,
past Associate Director of the Orchestra at Temple Square (Mormon Tabernacle).  We will also perform two waltzes from 'The Nutcracker" by Tchaikovsky.  Come early - - these concerts tend to sell out fast! 

November 3, 2007

We take pleasure in occasionally presenting some of our outstanding musicians as solo performers with the orchestra.  This concert we feature Bob Wall, our principal clarinetist and Associate Conductor, playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto.  This is one of the earliest and still the greatest concerto for clarinet, and Bob gives a very well thought-out and enticing performance.

 Also on the program is the ever-popular Egmont Overture by Beethoven, and Dvorak’s eighth Symphony.  The latter is one of Dvorak’s best known works, filled with wonderful melodies from start to finish.  We hope you will enjoy it.


2006 - 2007 Season

May 12, 2007

As part of the world-wide celebration year of the anniversary of Mozart’s birth, we will feature two of his works on our May concert.  We are pleased to have Nancy Weems, University of Houston faculty artist, and Scott Holshauser, pianist for the Houston Symphony, in a performance of the seldom –heard Concerto for Two Pianos.  Nancy is a long-time supporter of the orchestra, and Scott has accompanied numerous contestants in our Youth Concerto competition.  We look forward to having them in the spotlight. This is one of Mozart’s best works, and the opportunity to hear it performed live should not be missed.  The lively overture to the opera, The Impressario, will begin the program.

The concluding work will be the Richard Strauss lively tone-poem, Till Eulenspiegel.  One of his greatest works, and probably the most popular, it depicts the mischievous adventures of a medieval prankster.  The work opens with a 'Once upon a time' theme, then suggests Till's laughter as he plots his next prank. The music follows Till throughout the countryside, as he rides a horse through a market, upsetting the goods and wares, pokes fun at the strict Teutonic clergy, flirts and chases girls, and mocks the serious academics.  Finally, Till has been captured by the authorities, and is sentenced to hang for blasphemy. The funeral march of the hangman begins a dialogue with the desperate Till, who tries to wheedle and joke his way out of this predicament. Unfortunately, he has no effect on the stony executioner, who pulls the lever. The clarinet wails, signifying his death scream, and a pizzicato by the strings represents the actual hanging and the swinging of the body back and forth, gradually slowing and growing more infrequent until reaching a stop. After a moment of silence, the 'once upon a time' theme heard at the beginning returns, suggesting that something like Till can never be destroyed, and the work ends with one last musical joke.
April 14, 2007

Every year the Clear Lake Symphony holds a competition for Houston area Jr. and Sr. High School student musicians.  There are separate categories for Wind and String instruments and Piano.  Winners are invited to perform with the orchestra, a rare and valuable opportunity for young performers.  While not every talented youngster goes on to pursue a career in music, many of our previous contestants have continued serious study of their instruments and are now active professionals.  I used to find the quality of their performances surprisingly good, but over the years have come to routinely expect the exceptional.  I have no doubt that this year’s winners will continue in this tradition.

This year’s winners are Matthew Barker, playing the first movement of the Neruda Trumpet Concerto; Anastasia Koinis, flute, playing Poem, by Griifes; Alice Wang, playing the first movement of the Saint-Saens Second Piano Concerto; Aidin Ashoori, playing Gershwin’s Piano Concerto; Nathan Haley, playing the first movement of the first Cello Concerto by Shostakovich; Lillian Pettitt, playing the first movement of Haydn’s Cello Concerto in D, and Christoper Lee playing the last movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.


February 24, 2007

Our next program features our principal flute, Melodie Cunningham, in a performance of Antal Dorati’s Night Music.  Remembered as one of the leading orchestra conductors during the middle of the 20th century, Dorati has not received sufficient recognition as a composer in his own right.  As would be expected from the title, his style shows the influences of his teachers, Bartok and Kodaly, with Hungarian folk idioms clothed in more modern harmonies.  He describes the piece as a “flute concerto in disguise…a series of five nocturnes referring to episodes from sunset to dawn.”   The piece has been recorded by myself and flutist Alison Young on Albany Records: Troy 308.

We will also be joined by organist Mary Horn for the Third Symphony by Saint-Saens, the so-called ”organ symphony.”  One of the most prodigious child prodigies, Saint-Saens could read and write by the age of three, started composing by age four, made his first public appearance playing the piano part of a Beethoven violin sonata at age five, and had learned Latin by the age of seven.  At age ten, following his public debut as a soloist, he offered to play as an encore any of Beethoven’s 32 piano sonatas from memory.  Liszt later declared him to be the greatest organist in the world.  In addition to his musical activities, he was a successful playwright and poet, was a member of the Astromonical Society of France, wrote scholarly articles and lectured on acoustics, Roman theatre decoration, and mirages.  He held discussions with leading scientists on mathematics, geology, archeology, botany and lepidoptery, and his book on philosophy foreshadowed Existentialism.  A prolific composer, he was considered old-fashioned by most of his contemporaries.  He is remembered today chiefly for this work and his Carnival of the Animals.

The opening work will be the Overture to Chabrier’s opera, Gwendoline.



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Last Updated: 11/14/2017