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Flirting with Melodies

March 7, 2021 -

Livestream Concert Event

United States


Phone: (775) 323-6393


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On the program:
Samuel COLERIDGE-TAYLOR  Four Novelettes, op. 52
Julie SPENCER  Tree Song (World Premiere of new orchestral version)
Josef SUK Serenade in E-flat major, op. 6

Nothing from the mind of Music Director Laura Jackson is ever predictable – flirting with new ways to bring back the musicians of the Reno Phil to the stage of the Pioneer Center, this virtual concert will feature two marimbas (Eric Middleton & Carol Colwell) performing a world premiere performance of Julie Spencer’s Tree Song. The music pours out a love of nature, inspired by the songs of birds, wind in the trees, and mountain echoes. The program will also feature two incredibly romantic, lush and melodic works. As the diminutive title suggests, Coleridge-Taylor’s Novelettes form a set of modest yet graceful character pieces, whose dance-like qualities are accentuated through the addition of triangle and tambourine. Closing the program, Suk’s Serenade will be a lively & cheerful nod at the warmth of spring around the corner. A favorite student of Dvorak’s, Suk crafted this work after being challenged by his teacher to write something more ebullient.

Available on demand!

On demand tickets are $30.00* per access link

*Subscriber promo codes and comps not applicable to on-demand.

This option is available for purchase Mar. 1 – 7, 2021. Video will be available to watch for 7 days from the first time you click into the stream player and will not be available after Mar. 14, 2021 at 11:59 PM PST.

Please Take Note

  • This concert will be streamed  for two performance options on Saturday or Sunday – this means you CANNOT pause or rewind.
  • Approximate runtime is 1 hour 15 minutes with no intermission
  • Tickets are valid for one viewing device only
  • Subscribers of the 19-20 Classix Season can watch for free by redeeming a PROMO CODE at checkout. Watch your email for details or contact our box office.
  • Tickets are $25 for single viewers or $40 for the household for the streams – or $30 for on demand option. Plus fees.


Featured artists Eric Middleton and Carol Colwell are generously sponsored by Karen Vibe & Karen Goody

Tree Song is generously sponsored by Kathie & Steve Jenkins


Corporate Support:




Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Click here for more information.
Email Director of Development, Michael Hicks or call 775.323.6393




By Chris Morrison
Four Novelettes, op. 52
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By Chris Morrison
Four Novelettes, op. 52
Empty section. Edit page to add content here.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Born: August 15, 1875, London, England
Died: September 1, 1912, Croydon, Surrey, England

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born of an English mother and a physician father from Sierra Leone descended from African-American slaves. After studying the violin as a youth, he turned to composing when he entered London’s Royal College of Music at age 15. By his early twenties, his compositions had won worldwide attention, in particular Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, the first of what eventually became three cantatas based on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem Song of Hiawatha. He was the youngest delegate at the 1900 First Pan-African Conference held in London, and Coleridge-Taylor became fascinated with the idea of integrating traditional African music into his own works. During the first of his three tours of the United States, in 1904, he was hailed as a cultural hero by African-Americans and was received at the White House by President Theodore Roosevelt. He was just 37 when he died of pneumonia.

4 Novelletten, Op. 52

Composed: 1903
Duration: 22 minutes
Instrumentation: strings, tambourine, triangle

In the wake of the fame attained by his Hiawatha works, Coleridge-Taylor’s life had become extremely busy in the first years of the twentieth century. Along with his composing, in 1903 he became a professor of composition at Trinity College of Music in London, and was appointed music director of the Handel Society. At around this same time, he composed the four Novelletten for strings with optional percussion. (There is also a version titled Haitian Dances that adds a fifth piece, derived from the Scherzo movement of Coleridge-Taylor’s Symphony in A minor, between the second and third of the Novelletten). The title is unusual, and was probably inspired by Robert Schumann’s solo piano Novelletten, Op. 21 from 1838.

All four of Coleridge-Taylor’s Novelletten are in a fairly simple ABA song form. The first is a gentle, insouciant waltz, punctuated by the tambourine. In its central section, the cellos take the lead with a memorable tune that could have come from Antonín Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings. Muted strings and pizzicati give the second Novellette a gently playful quality, which extends into the occasional syncopations and the solo cello’s lovely countermelody. The minuet-like dance at the center is given warmth by the accent on the lower strings, before the winsome opening music returns, capped off by a ring of the triangle.

A heartfelt violin solo is prominently featured in the wistful, vaguely sentimental third piece. A more propulsive, intense central section provides a strong contrast. That propulsive quality comes out even more in the last of the , which brings a note of aggression, and a sense of adventure, not heard to this point. The music briefly turns quiet and mysterious before the opening music returns for a powerful coda.

Tree Song (World Premiere of new orchestral version)

Julie Spencer

Born: January 9, 1962, Indianapolis, Indiana

Composer, percussionist, singer, and painter Julie Spencer blends composition and improvisation in her sound collages, jazz compositions, world music crossover, as well as contemporary scores for solo marimba, chamber ensembles, choirs, and orchestras. Since 1988 she has worked with multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist Gernot Blume in the duo Spencer & Blume, blending a host of world music traditions. As a marimba virtuoso, Spencer has appeared in concerts throughout Europe, North America, and East Asia. She has worked with classical, jazz, and world music ensembles from across the globe. A graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and recipient, post graduation, of the Performer’s Certificate, Spencer’s master’s degree is from Cal Arts. Her music can be heard on more than twenty compact discs.

Tree Song

Composed: 2008
Duration: 8 minutes
Instrumentation: strings, two marimbas

The original version of Tree Song was scored for two marimbas. Dedicated to Gordon Stout, it was written for Spencer´s 2008 tour of the United States. A subsequent version of the piece for marimba and piano was created in cooperation with Gernot Blume as the piano arranger. Julie Spencer has kindly provided the following note on her new arrangement of the piece:

Tree Song for Two Marimbas & String Orchestra was commissioned by the Reno Philharmonic Orchestra. The music pours out of a love of nature, inspired by the songs of birds and wind in the trees and mountain echoes. The musical language comes from Jazz harmony and African rhythms written in the swing feel of a 12/8 time signature. The melodies fly from voice to voice while the deep tones of the old trees and mountains flow through the ground and into the sky. You can hear the evening song as the piece concludes, and imagine a flock filling the tree branches and the valley with the shimmering texture of all of their voices at once. Tree Song was originally commissioned by Vicki P. Jenks and is recorded by Shiori Tanaka and Kazuko Ihara for Voices of Peace. The Reno Philharmonic commission was facilitated by percussionist Eric Middleton, who is one of the premiering marimba soloists.”

Serenade in E-flat major, op. 6

Josef Suk

Born: January 4, 1874, Křečovice, Bohemia (now Czech Republic)
Died: May 29, 1935, Benešov, Bohemia (now Czech Republic)

Composer and violinist Josef Suk studied at the Prague Conservatory from 1885 to 1892. One of his teachers there was Antonín Dvořák, who became a mentor for the young musician – and in 1898 a father-in-law, when Suk married Dvořák’s daughter Otilie. Suk taught at the Prague Conservatory himself from 1922, numbering among his students composer Bohuslav Martinů and pianist Rudolf Firkušný. He also served for some forty years as second violinist of the Czech Quartet, which he formed in 1893 with three of his fellow Conservatory students. Suk’s early compositions betray the influence of Dvořák, but later on, in works like the symphony Azrael (written in response to the death of Dvořák in 1904, and that of his wife the following year) and the symphonic poem Ripening, Suk’s musical language became more adventuresome and complex.

Serenade for Strings in E-flat major, Op. 6

Composed: 1892
Duration: 24 minutes
Instrumentation: strings

Suk’s Serenade was the result of a challenge laid down by his teacher Antonín Dvořák. Dismissing his class for the summer at the end of the 1891-1892 school year, Dvořák told the eighteen-year-old Suk, most of whose early compositions were in dark minor keys, “It’s summertime now, so go and make something lively for a change, to compensate for all those pomposities in minor.” Whether it was the challenge that motivated him or the summer weather, within a few weeks Suk had produced the lovely, tuneful Serenade.

Part of his motivation that summer, too, may have been his new acquaintanceship with Dvořák’s daughter Otilie (affectionately known as Otylka). Then only fourteen years old, Otilie made quite an impression on the teenaged Suk; the two married six years later, and some have suggested that the Serenade is Suk’s musical portrait of Otilie. The first movement, in ternary (or ABA) form, opens with a graceful, lyrical melody that sounds almost like a quotation from Johannes Brahms’s Violin Concerto. A radiant, ascending theme is one of the highlights of the second movement, a relaxed waltz. The heartfelt slow movement opens with a cello song. The music takes on more intensity in the central section, but then the opening idea recurs, capped by an ascending passage for violins. By far the most energetic of the four movements, the finale is in something like sonata-allegro form, with the melodies first stated, then developed. Instead of a recapitulation of those original melodies, though, the work ends with a return of the lyrical melody heard at the beginning of the first movement.



Reno Phil Orchestra

Ruth Lenz*, Concertmaster
Olga Archdekin*, Acting Associate Concertmaster
Alison Harvey
Sarah Coyl*
Laurentiu Norocel
Virginia Evans

Calvin Lewis*, Acting Principal Second
Ellen Flanagan*, Acting Assistant Principal Second
David Haskins*
Rose Sciaroni
Elizabeth Lenz

Dustin Budish*, Principal
Tiantian Lan*, Assistant Principal
McKayla Talasek*
Catherine Matovich

Peter Lenz*, Principal
Eileen Brownell*, Acting Assistant Principal
Johnny Lenz*

Scott Faulkner*, Principal
Mark Wallace*, Assistant Principal

Eric Middleton*, Principal
Carol Colwell

*denotes contract player



Eric Middleton has been principal percussionist with the Reno Philharmonic since 2003. Prior to that, he was timpanist with the Phil during the 1994 and 1995 seasons. He then moved to Austin, Texas, where he earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts degree from the University of Texas.

Eric got his start performing in the Reno/Tahoe area in the showrooms of Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, Harrah’s Reno, and other showrooms that no longer exist.

Previous ensembles include the Austin Texas Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Mid- Texas Symphony, Austin Chamber Music Festival, and the Reno Chamber Orchestra. Currant ensembles include the Reno Philharmonic and the Classical Tahoe festival.

Carol Nelson Colwell was born in Lockport IL. She comes from a family of percussionists. Her brother Jeff is also a professional percussionist and her Mother Lois was her first Marimba teacher. She graduated high school from the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy. At the age of 18 she won first prize in the Illinois Young Performers Competition which earned her the opportunity to play a concerto with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. She received her Bachelor’s of Music Degree from Oberlin Conservatory and Masters of Music Degree from The Cleveland Institute of Music. She was a percussionist in the Honolulu Symphony and Timpanist and Xylophone Soloist with the River City Brass Band. She also has had an extensive freelance career having played with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, New world Symphony, Omaha Symphony, and Seattle Ballet to name a few. Currently she has played with the Reno Phil for over 10 years and lives in Dayton, NV with her husband Marty and dog Parker.



March 7, 2021
Event Category:


Livestream Concert Event
United States
(775) 323-6393


Reno Philharmonic
(775) 323-6393
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