By George Basler

Evan Meccarello hopes concert goers will “feel inspired by beauty from unexpected places” when they attend Saturday’s Binghamton Community Orchestra concert.

In keeping with this goal, the orchestra’s music director has planned a program that features two main centerpieces: a concerto featuring the tuba, an instrument that rarely gets played as a solo instrument, and a pastoral orchestra suite written during the segregation era by composer William Grant Still Jr., who has been called the “Dean of Afro-American Composers.”

The May 11 program at Maine-Endwell Middle School, entitled “Bravado and Beauty”, also includes Beethoven’s “Egmont Overture” and a short piece by English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.

The tuba concerto is the work of English composer Edward Gregson, known for his instrumental and choral music.

“Many people don’t know that the tuba can be an amazing lyrical instrument. It’s much more than being the bass part of a brass section,” Meccarello said. He approached Keith Alcius, a BCO member, to play Gregson’s work.

Alcius, 28, originally from Naples, Fla, holds a Master of Music in Tuba Performance from New England Conservatory. His career includes performing with the Akron Symphony Orchestra, Hot Tamale Brass Band and the Binghamton Philharmonic Orchestra. He currently plays sousaphone for the Alpha Brass Band, a Binghamton-based New Orleans-style and funk brass ensemble.

“It’s exciting to feature a young soloist with exceptional talent,” Meccarello said. “As soon as I heard Keith play, his level of ability was immediately obvious.”

Alcius picked Gregson’s piece to perform on a contra bass tuba. He called the concerto, first performed in 1976, “an amazing piece” that features sections that sound like a triumphant march and sections that are melodic and lyrical.

“I hope audience members take away (from the performance) that the tuba can be a versatile and very expressive instrument,” Alcius said. “Ultimately, I want everybody to feel something when I play the tuba. That’s the ideal.”

Still, who was born in Mississippi in 1895 and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, composed nearly 200 hundred works during his long career, including five symphonies, four ballets and nine operas. The Binghamton Community Orchestra is performing his orchestral suite Wood Notes as part of its mission to include works of American composers in its repertoire, Meccarello said. It follows the orchestra’s performance last season of a work by Florence Price, the first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer.

Still composed Wood Notes after being inspired by the natural beauty of the American South and the poetry of Joseph Mitchell Pilcher, a white poet and social worker living in Alabama.

The work premiered in 1948 with a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the program for the debut performance, Still wrote, “Wood Notes has social significance because it is a collaboration between a Southern white man and a Southern-born Negro composer, in which both of the participants were enthused over the project.”

The work consists of four movements: Singing River, Autumn Night, Moon Dusk and Whippoorwill’s Shoes. Still uses many different voices within the ensemble to create both a pastoral and impressionistic atmosphere.

 Critics have called it a striking piece of music with musical ebbs and flows.

Overall, the program is an exciting one for the community orchestra to perform, Meccarello said adding: “I hope our listeners feel the rousing spirit of these pieces.”

IF YOU GO: The Binghamton Community Orchestra will perform its program “Bravado and Beauty” at 7 p.m. Saturday (May 11) at Maine-Endwell Middle School, Farm to Market Road, Endwell. There is a pre-concert chat at 6:15 p.m. Tickets at $10 can be purchased at the door.