“We only do one residency a year and this year was Arkansas,” Patricia J. O’Kelly, managing director for media relations with the National Symphony Orchestra, said Thursday.


Farewell, National Symphony Orchestra. See ya’ in 50 years.
“We only do one residency a year and this year was Arkansas,” Patricia J. O’Kelly, managing director for media relations with the National Symphony Orchestra, said Thursday.
Emil de Cou, an NSO conductor, directed the orchestra through two performances for area students Thursday morning in the Lily Peter Auditorium on the campus of Phillips Community College as part of the NSO’s Arkansas Residency Tour.
Hundreds of students from Marianna Lee, DeSoto, Marvell Academy, Barton, KIPP and Helena-West Helena were both entertained and instructed about how various musical instruments provide their own individual sounds.
The conductor’s “Sound Science” program covered the highly acclaimed music of composer John Williams who wrote the eerie sounds of the “Imperial March” from Star Wars; Holst, “Mars” from The Planets, and classical selections from Bach, Beethoven and Debussy. The conductor concluded the fast-moving 45-minute performances with the theme and fugue from Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra.”
A Wednesday night performance also held in the Lily Peter Auditorium and directed by the NSO’s principal conductor Ivan Fischer, featured classical works from Wagner and Weiner; more contemporary sounds from Leonard Bernstein, and a symphony piece from Dvorak.
Fischer and company roused the large turnout with a riveting rendition of the National Anthem and closed the evening performance with Stars and Stripes Forever by the late Marine Band conductor John Philips Souza.
Traveling by buses, the orchestra crisscrossed the countryside from Tunica, Miss. where they stayed nightly to several engagements throughout Arkansas.
Students at Westside Elementary were treated to a morning performance Wednesday. Fischer had a personal engagement by a combined civic club luncheon attended by members of the Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions clubs.
The NSO opened its Arkansas travels Tuesday with a performance at Lyon College in Batesville; engagements at Arkansas State University, St. Bernard’s Medical Center and other stops in Jonesboro.
Sandwiched in between were stops at Batesville, Jonesboro and Newport.
After the Helena-West Helena engagements, the orchestra members packed up their instruments and headed for Little Rock. The NSO’s itinerary also listed stops at Brinkley, El Dorado. Monticello and Little Rock.
Saturday’s heavy schedule shows masters classes on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas, violin and chamber music coaching and the reading of student compositions, offering the musicians’ critiques. The same nightly performance conducted at PCCUA is scheduled for Saturday night at UCA.
The arduous trip has scheduled engagements at Little Rock Sunday and Fayetteville, Rogers and Russellville Monday.
O’Kelly said the NSO spends most of its time giving performances at its home base, the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts at Washington.
The Stella Boyle Smith Trust sponsors the Arkansas residency. Michael R. Mayton from the Mayton Law Firm in Little Rock is a new NSO national trustee.
Like the late Samuel Drake Warfield, whose endowment has funded the Warfield Concerts for years, the late Stella Boyle Smith left a trust for musical arts in Arkansas.
Smith, who died in 1994 at 100, moved to Arkansas from her native Missouri at age two and founded the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. Her trust has continued to support the performing arts, education healthcare and children’s charities in Arkansas since her death.