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Maestro Curry joins Winston-Salem Symphony as guest conductor for "A Carolina Christmas with the Camel City Jazz Orchestra"
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Maestro Curry joins Winston-Salem Symphony as guest conductor for "A Carolina Christmas with the Camel City Jazz Orchestra"

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This Thanksgiving weekend, the Winston-Salem Symphony will present “A Carolina Christmas with the Camel City Jazz Orchestra” to kick off the holiday season.

“A Carolina Christmas” will be conducted by guest conductor William Henry Curry and Karen Ni Bhroin, assistant conductor of the Winston-Salem Symphony. The Camel City Jazz Orchestra and Timothy McDevitt, the guest soloist, will join the symphony for this festive musical event.

“The Winston-Salem Symphony’s ‘A Carolina Christmas’ is a perfect start to the holiday season,” Curry said in a press release. “I am excited to help conduct these festive concerts because they present the best of the holidays. I am so excited that the Camel City Jazz Orchestra will join us, bringing their wonderful big band jazz sound to make the holiday music even more fun. And yes, there will be a visit from Santa Claus!”

This is the ninth year for this popular holiday concert, which is back in person.

“This year’s show will add the lush harmonies and colors of strings to the mix of festive Christmastime favorites,” the Winston-Salem Symphony stated.

Festive musicIn his debut with the Winston-Salem Symphony for “A Carolina Christmas,” Curry said in an interview that the concert’s program is his kind of program.

“Programs for American audiences need to be as diverse as far as the music as possible,” Curry said. “I think every person that loves classical music also has some jazz and pop in their CD collection. We all have eclectic tastes as Americans.”

The concert will open with “Adeste Fidelis,” arranged by Arthur Harris, which is the Latin version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”

Next on the program will be “Light Cavalry Overture” by Franz von Suppe, known by many people for its use in cartoons.

A Kwanzaa piece written by Curry titled “A Kwanzaa Celebration” is also on the program.

“And what’s Christmas without some of the Christmas ballet,” Curry said, referring to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “March” from “The Nutcracker Suite.” “We have that.”

One of Curry’s heroes is Duke Ellington and “A Carolina Christmas” will feature “Volga Vouty” by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, as well as “Peanut Brittle Brigade” by Ellington, Strayhorn and Jeff Tyzik.

Curry said “Peanut Brittle Brigade is a jazz interpretation of ‘The Nutcracker Suite.’”

Other popular and traditional holiday music selections on the program are “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “White Christmas” and “March of the Toys” from “Babes in Toyland.”

“Christmas Singalong” will close the program.

“I have never done a Christmas show without a singalong,” Curry said.

The maestroCurry is the music director and conductor of the Durham Symphony. He was the resident conductor and Summerfest Artistic Director of the North Carolina Symphony for 20 years. He came to the North Carolina Symphony by way of New Orleans, where he served as resident conductor of the New Orleans Symphony.

A native of Pittsburgh, Pa., Curry’s love for music started at an early age.

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“By the time I realized music was something very special, it was the summer right before seventh grade,” Curry said. “At the same time, I discovered Broadway, Hollywood, classical and jazz and some pre-Motown music. Until then, I was the quintessential bookworm.”

He said his cultural father figure as he grew up was American conductor Leonard Bernstein, who led televised young people’s concerts.

When Curry wrote an eighth-grade book report on what he wanted to do when he grew up, he said, “I want to be Leonard Bernstein.”

“The reason for that is that he was so approachable,” Curry said. “But more than that, as he said in his first book called ‘The Joy of Music,’ ‘I don’t want to just be a conductor. I want to conduct, I want to compose, I want to write, I want to teach, I want to write concertos,’ etc.”

Curry started conducting and composing music at age 14. His first major appointment was at age 21 when he was named assistant conductor of the Richmond Chamber Orchestra. On the same day, he was called in to replace a conductor who suddenly became ill for a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

He went on to serve as resident conductor with the Baltimore Symphony for six years (1978–83) and with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for two years (1983–85).

Curry has conducted about 60 orchestras in the United States and Asia. He is also a composer. On June 13, 1999, the Indianapolis Symphony premiered his work, “Eulogy for a Dream,” which is based on the speeches and writings of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The range of artists Curry has worked with include Zubin Mehta, Aaron Copland, John Williams and Ella Fitzgerald.

He has also worked with promising young musicians as an instructor at the Peabody Conservatory and the Baltimore School for the Arts, and as a mentor.

The baritone and jazz orchestra

McDevitt, the guest soloist, is an American baritone.

“His unique ability to thrive in the worlds of both opera and musical theatre is clearly represented by his diverse schedule throughout the United States and abroad,” the symphony said.

Throughout the pandemic shutdown, McDevitt maintained an active schedule of recording and concert engagements, while developing two new works — “ERWARTUNG” {Expectation} for New York’s Ludlow House and “Dear Edvard” with the York Theatre Company. He was also seen on season two of the AppleTV series Dickinson and Bernstein’s “Mass” for PBS Great Performances.

The 2019 season included his debut in Germany as Harry Easter in “Street Scene” at Oper Köln, Maximillian in “Candide” with the Philadelphia Orchestra alongside actor Bradley Cooper and “Call Me Madam” with New York City Center Encores.

His opera stage credits include starring in “Les Mamelles de Tirésias” at both the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie and the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and “L’Isola Disabitata” at Alice Tully Hall.

Camel City Jazz Orchestra is a nonprofit organization based in Winston-Salem that is dedicated to celebrating and perpetuating the American art form of jazz.

The orchestra was started in 2012 by Matt Kosma and his wife, Jill Stricklin.

For “A Carolina Christmas,” the jazz orchestra will perform several arrangements that were written by some of its band members, including “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Snow Miser vs Heat Miser.”

Kosma, artistic director and saxophone for Camel City Jazz Orchestra, said this will be the first time the jazz orchestra has collaborated with the Winston-Salem Symphony.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Kosma said. “It’s a pretty varied program.”

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@fdanielWSJ

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