Dan Allcott has been conducting research—and two professional orchestras: the Bryan Symphony Orchestra in Cookeville and Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra.
He has been studying the life and music of composer Charles Faulkner Bryan, a native of McMinnville who died in 1955 at the young age of 44. The Cookeville orchestra is named after him.
Accompanied by ORSO, the Oak Ridge Chorus on Saturday will sing “The Bell Witch,” a cantata written by Bryan in 1947 while studying with Paul Hindemith at Yale University. The concert will start at 7:30 p.m. at the Oak Ridge High School Performing Arts Center.
Hindemith, a German-born American composer, violist, violinist and conductor, encouraged Bryan to write orchestral, choral, and operatic music that incorporates tunes and stories from Tennessee sources. Bryan instilled in his students an appreciation for the folk ballads and hymns of Appalachia.
“Bryan was a rising star when his life was cut short, but not before his cantata on the Tennessee tale of the Bell Witch was premiered by Robert Shaw at Carnegie Hall in 1947,” Allcott said.
The Bell Witch Haunting is a poltergeist legend from Tennessee folklore. John Bell Sr., a farmer, lived with his family in Adams, Tenn., in the early 19th century. In 1817, his family came under attack by a witch.
Soloists from the Chorus will be Lindsay Slaughter, soprano; Jesse Nance, alto; Kevin Salter, tenor; Josh Voiles, baritone; and Dave Dunkirk, bass.
Allcott, a professor of orchestra studies at Tennessee Tech, received an internal grant to do the research. He found eight boxes of Bryan’s original handwritten music in a Tennessee Tech auditorium attic where the music department’s Christmas tree is stored. In 2011 he headed a Tennessee Tech celebration of the centennial of Bryan’s birth.
Bryan was an expert on the dulcimer, said Allcott, also music director of the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association. Allcott will bring Bryan’s collection of dulcimers to the concert, and members of the Knoxville Area Dulcimer Club will perform before the concert and during intermission.
At Saturday’s concert Stephen Seifert, a mountain dulcimerist from Nashville, will be the featured artist.
With Seifert playing the dulcimer, ORSO will perform “Blackberry Winter,” a concerto for mountain dulcimer and string orchestra by Conni Ellison. She is a composer, arranger and performing violinist from Nashville.
“In her concerto Ellisor has fused the influences of her Tennessee roots into a unique classical style,” Allcott said.
ORSO will open the concert with “Symphony No. 5” (1816) by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Schubert is Allcott’s favorite composer. At the “Dialogue with Dan” lunch meeting Monday, Allcott played part of Schubert’s scary “ErlKing” composition, based on a Goethe poem on a German legend that ties in with “The Bell Witch” cantata.
The concert theme is “Spring in the Mountains.” Featuring a dulcimerist and two composers from Tennessee, the concert is in keeping with the ORSO season theme—“Tennessee Sounds Good to Me.”
The concert is dedicated to the memory of John George Million, Jr., who left a significant gift to ORCMA. Other sponsors are the Woy Family Charitable Trust (dulcimer soloist) and the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Tickets for the Saturday concert can be purchased at the door for $25 (adult), $10 (college students 19 years or older, with ID) and $5 (students 18 years and younger).
To become a new subscriber for the rest of the season at a discount or buy four concert tickets at a $40 discount, call the ORCMA office at (865) 483-5569. Schedule and ticket information is available on ORCMA’s www.orcma.org website.