The Olympia Symphony Orchestra concludes its 65th anniversary season by “Coming Full Circle” with a program that will include a world premiere of a piece by a Lacey composer whose grandfather was one of the symphony’s earliest conductors.
Composer Austin Schlichting has himself come full circle: He grew up in Bellingham and now plays viola with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra and teaches music at River Ridge High School in Lacey.
His “Festschrift” pays homage to the orchestra’s history and to Fred Schlichting, who was its music director from the early 1950s to 1968.
Also on Sunday’s program are the Overture to “Don Giovanni” — the first piece the orchestra ever played — and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9, a massive and challenging work that the orchestra last performed for its 60th anniversary.
“Our board wants to perform this every five years as a benchmark and a renewal,” conductor Huw Edwards told The Olympian. “It will be very different from 2012. … We are now capable of some things we dared not do last time.”
“Festschrift,” which will make its debut between the two classics, ties together the Mozart and Beethoven works, quoting from both and making other references to the classical repertoire.
“It’s a collage piece,” Austin Schlichting told The Olympian. “A festschrift is when students and colleagues of a scholar submit articles in commemoration of a retirement or birthday. The tradition is that it happens around the 65th year.”
“Festschrift” commemorates both the symphony’s 65th birthday and the role of his grandfather, whose initials serve as a motif throughout, with the F chord standing for Fred and E-flat, known in Germany as S, for Schlichting.
“There’s a little hidden code in there,” the composer said. “Composers use these rules to put hidden messages into their music.”
“It’s both a serious and a witty piece,” Edwards said, noting that Schlichting’s musical quotations include pieces on which he’s played viola with the Olympia Symphony Orchestra.
“There is an important OSO lineage at play with Austin,” the conductor said.
Schlichting is in fact the third generation of his family to be part of the orchestra. Anne Edwards, his aunt and Fred Schlichting’s daughter, has played viola with the group since 1969, and will be playing her nephew’s piece on Sunday.
The composer is also a third-generation high-school music teacher: His father, Mark Schlichting, taught for 40 years at Bellingham High School, and Fred Schlichting taught for nearly three decades at Olympia High School.
‘Coming Full Circle’
What: The Olympia Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 65th anniversary year with a program including both a world premiere by a local composer and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, performed with the Olympia Choral Society and the Timberline High School Choir.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia
- Overture to “Don Giovanni,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- “Festschrift,” by Austin Schlichting of Lacey
- Symphony no. 9 in D minor, op. 125 “Choral,” by Ludwig van Beethoven, featuring soprano Marlette Buchanan, alto Miya Higashiyama, tenor Brendan Tuohy, bass Charles Robert Stephens, the Olympia Choral Society and the Timberline High School Choir