WMP Concert, March 30th Features local composer’s world premiere

Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez
with harpist Heidi Sternilio
Ries:  Sea Surface Full of Clouds
A Cantata (World Premiere)
with NOVA Community Chorus
Debussy: La Mer

The three works in this program reflect The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic’s reputation for unique programming choices, and offers the audience a distinctive concert experience.  Although musically quite different, two of the selections share the common theme of the sea.   Debussy’s La Mer amazingly depicts the sound of the sea in its many states, and The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic is thrilled to present the world premiere of local composer Lawrence Ries’ concerto featuring the NOVA Community Chorus.  This work is based on the very complex Wallace Stevens poem, “Sea Surface full of Clouds,” allegedly about the sea; however, interpretations abound due to the rich verbal, impressionistic, and coloristic character of the poem.  The concert opens with Rodrigo’s most notable composition, Concerto de Aranjuez  - simply a stunning gem. Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic harpist Heidi Sturniolo will perform the work originally written for guitar soloist using Rodrigo’s 1974 transcription.  In celebration of Poetry Month, Ms. Shelly Bell will present her poems about each of the movements in Concerto de Aranjuez and La Mer.


Sunday March 30 2014 at 3:00 pm

T C Williams High School

3330 King St.

Alexandria, VA

Sunday April 6, 2014 at 3:00 pm

Church of the Epiphany

1317 G St., NW

Washington, DC

TICKETS:                         $20.00 – 18 and under free

WEBSITE:                       http://www.wmpamusic.org

CONTACT:                      wmpa@earthlink.net   703-799-8229

MEDIA CONTACT:       Robin Havens-Parker 571-422-3130

About WMPA:

Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association (WMPA) is a not-for-profit organization of musicians and music lovers dedicated to making high-quality musical performances and opportunities accessible to the community.

WMPA is composed of several major programs, including three orchestras, a free summer concert series, and a composition competition; through its unique and diverse programming and initiatives, WMPA celebrates the living, breathing nature of music—music that moves with time, moves its audiences, and makes a difference.

Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic

WMP is an auditioned symphonic orchestra composed of approximately 65 professional, semi-professional, and amateur musicians. It performs five regular season concert sets in Alexandria, Virginia at T. C. Williams High School and in Washington, D.C. at Church of the Epiphany.

Washington Metropolitan Youth Orchestra

WMYO is an auditioned symphonic orchestra for advanced student musicians. It performs four free regular season concerts in Alexandria, Virginia at Episcopal High School, where it is the orchestra-in-residence.

Washington Metropolitan Concert Orchestra

WMCO, launched in 2008, is a small ensemble created for string musicians not yet prepared for entrance into the youth orchestra but who are interested in performing with their peers with the guidance of a specialist in music education. This ensemble also rehearses and performs in Alexandria, Virginia at Episcopal High School.

About The Conductor:

Music Director, Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic

Director Ulysses S. James is a former trombonist who studied in Boston and at Tanglewood with William Gibson,  principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  He became the Music Director and Conductor of what is now Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association in 1984.

The Philharmonic has grown from a small mostly amateur group to a 60-70 member orchestra, about 75% of whom are professional or semi-professional musicians.  Mr. James initiated a summer chamber music series at The Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria that will have its twenty-fourth consecutive season next summer.

Mr. James is known for his innovative programming and performance of new, accessible works.  He has conducted in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall, and Strathmore Hall and has conducted frequently in the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall and Terrace Theater.

About the Guest Composer: Lawrence Edward Ries

Lawrence Ries is a self-taught composer. As a youth, he studied clarinet for six years, and sang in his church choir.  While in college at the University Maryland, he discovered Debussy and began exploring classical music of all eras in scores, recordings, and concerts. During that period, he taught himself to play the piano, and he uses it as a tool while he composes. In Nova Scotia, while attending graduate school, he sang with the Dalhousie University chorus and his church choir. After receiving his Master’s degree in English, he returned to the DC area, where he auditioned for and joined Dr. Paul Traver’s University of Maryland (UMD) chorus as a baritone.  He performed with the UMD chorus for several years, including performances with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center in New York.  Moving to the Boston area in 1974 and working with some brilliant New England Conservatory students, he began experimenting with composition, composing some art songs and piano pieces. Returning to the DC area in 1980, he began working on a Master’s degree in Music at Catholic University, studying music theory and sight-singing, while working full-time for the National Archives.  The end of the Archives’ flex-time ended his studies at Catholic, so he continued his studies in the evening at Montgomery College in Rockville in a non-degree program.

From 1984-94, Ries resigned from the federal government and became a stay-at-home father for his two sons, Paul and Philip.  He composed a variety of works during this period, including art songs based on poems by Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Encouraged by Richard Jason, the organist/ choir director at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Bethesda, MD, Ries taught himself orchestration and orchestrated “Three Poems of Wallace Stevens,” a song cycle for soprano and orchestra.  This piece was performed in 1988 by the Mount Vernon Orchestra, the predecessor to the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic. That orchestra also performed Ries’ concerto for Flute, Viola, and Orchestra titled, “At First Light” in 1991, and Ries’ only symphony, “Four Dreams at the Hotel Jerusalem” in 1992.  He believes Debussy and Messiaen were the composers who most influenced his compositions.

Ries returned to the workforce in 1994, first working for five years in market research for a software company, and then returned in 1999 to the federal government.  He managed large contracts for Information Technology support for agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission.  He retired in 2009 and spends his time listening to music, composing music, photography, and travel.  He currently resides in Rockville, Maryland with his wife, Lynn. 

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