A part of every symphony artistic director’s job description is helping create the musical theme for each concert. Eugene Dowdy, who is both artistic director and conductor for Kerrville’s Symphony of the Hills, had a higher purpose in mind when putting together the program for the opening concert, Swan Songs.

“The point of selecting a theme is not to make your audience guess at the musical connections,” Dowdy said. “When I theme a concert, we are really looking at the core of the musical message. Longfellow said music is the universal language, and there are things that can only be said through music.”

With that reasoning, Dowdy chose the swan as a worthy subject and one that many composers have been drawn to immortalize. It is one of the most regal and magnificent of creatures, celebrated in myths and cultures around the world.

“The swan can be in the physical world without being attached to it, almost as a godly creature, as in Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin.’ This opening concert is an homage to the swan.”

Also on the October 3rd program is The Swan from Carnival of the “Animals,” by Camille St. Saens. It is a piece guaranteed to move the audience.

“St. Saens is one of the most accomplished of the Romance composers,” Dowdy said. “He composed that gorgeous ballad, ‘The Swan,’ that is often played at weddings. In ‘Carnival of the Animals,’ when you get to that movement, the music is elevated and so elegantly beautiful that people are in tears.”

As an added treat for Kerrville symphony-goers, the solo in The Swan will be performed by San Antonio Symphony cellist Ryan Murphy, a Sphinx Competition artist. He also performs Haydn’s “Cello Concerto No. 1.”

The second half of the concert opens with “Overture for the End of a Century,” by Libby Larsen, who Dowdy considers one of the most important modern composers.

“She is a fabulous composer, and women are underrepresented in the classical repertoire,” he noted. “She conceived this piece as the ‘swan song’ of the 20th century, and it is a tribute to an amazing century, with man reaching the moon, the awakening of civil rights, great wars, and the greatest generation. People will really like it.”

The centerpiece of the concert is Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” transporting the audience back to the theme.

“This is simply some of the most beautiful music ever written for orchestra,” said Dowdy. “It is instantly recognizable. Even without a ‘swan’ theme, this is one of the most popular orchestra works in the repertoire. The finale will be powerful.”

Swan Songs is the first of five concerts in the 19th season of Symphony of the Hills. It also marks Adventures in Music, the symphony’s musical outreach to students. Musicians have been going into area schools for several weeks to present short programs. During the day of the concert, 1600 students will attend two condensed concerts where they will be able to visit with the musicians and hold the instruments.

“This is a fantastic professional orchestra now in its 19th season,” Dowdy said. “This board is committed to bringing a high caliber of artistry to our audience. We’ll have one of the finest cellists around and the music will captivate everyone. Young and old alike need to turn out for this concert.”

Tickets, which range in price from $25 to $55 depending on seating, can be obtained by calling 830-792-7469 or visiting www.symphonyofthehills.org/season-tickets/#

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