MSO’s Eye-opening Season Ahead

MSO's tapestry of talent in colorful contrasting horizontal stacks for Season 78.


Consider, for a moment, the pure bliss of beautiful music. It wraps you in an embrace of emotion, revs the engines of your imagination, and sweeps you along to new places and spaces and dreams.

Are your eyes closed? You’ll want to rethink that setting for the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra season ahead.

Behold MSO’s 78th season and its roster of concerts packed with plenty to engage the eyes as well as the ears! A stellar lineup of skilled musicians and world-class guest artists is always a given, but another super cool draw is the charisma this season’s performers bring to the concert stage. 

What to watch for? 

The improvisational verve of clarinetist Kinan Azmeh (Bravo I) and trumpeter Nicholas Payton (Bravo IV), for one thing. Key into the rapport between musicians on the spellbinding, Persian-tinged melodies of Syrian-born Azmeh and on the daringly ambitious Black American Symphony from New Orleans-born Payton. They pull you into the musical conversation in a new way that’s fresh, spontaneous and wholly of the moment.

Remarkable young guest cellist Sterling Elliott’s (Bravo II) star continues to rise, and we’re catching him as that star is set firmly on soar. “Sterling Elliott is going to be a real hero,” Maestro Crafton Beck tells us. “His career has just skyrocketed.” Dvorak’s exquisite Cello Concerto, in his hands, is a real can’t-miss.

Piano soloists are always a big hit, and Christopher Atzinger (Bravo III) and Scott Cuellar (Bravo V) will certainly carry that tradition forward. Indulge in Beethoven’s best from Atzinger in a winter evening devoted to the master. Cuellar shares Ravel’s bright and charming Piano Concerto in G, perfect for spring.

It’s all lights, music, action on the Pops front. Broadway shines when MSO dives into Tony Award-winning favorites from the Great White Way (Pops I), symphonic portraits on My Fair Lady, West Side Story and Porgy and Bess among them. Pepsi Pops (Pops III) glows with faves from film and TV, and fireworks to boot.

Sparks will fly, too, when singing sensation Shayna Steele (Pops II) delivers “Nothin’ But the Blues” and its tribute to Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and more. Steele’s childhood hometown is Biloxi and this is Mississippi’s signature music, so brace yourself for the knockout sound and show that a world-class vocalist and Broadway performer can bring, all with the knowing insights of someone who’s lived in the birthplace of the blues.

Instrumental celebration reigns in our Chamber series. The MSO Brass Quintet heralds a superb start with Gabrieli’s Canzone duodecimi toni and violin soloists shimmer in Vivaldi’s Concerto for 4 Violins in D (Chamber I). Mozart by Candlelight (Chamber II) heats up with the fierce and fun Marriage of Figaro overture, the Haffner symphony, and the heavenly dialogue between strings in Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in B flat

Project Fusion Saxophone Quartet (Chamber III) jazzes up early spring with the hypnotic and glorious Philip Glass Concerto for Saxophone Quartet — “a rocking, wonderful piece,” Beck says. The evening sustains that energetic pulse with Grainger’s delightful Molly on the Shore and the wonderful melodies of Puccini’s The Chrysanthemums and Schubert’s Symphony No. 4

The MSO String Quartet, spotlighted on Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18, No. 3, is at the heart of an evening devoted to beautiful music (Chamber IV). Mozart’s Trio for Clarinet, Viola and Piano and Ravel’s Trois Poèmes de Stéphanie Mallarmé with mezzo soprano Viola Dacus complete the lovely picture.

MSO’s aim: Tap the best of the world’s musical repertoire, from the classic and beloved European canon certainly, but also highlight thrilling contemporary works and historically overlooked gems now more readily available.

“This expanded vision is something orchestras are doing all over the world, and it’s high time,”  Beck says.

As always, MSO takes you on an incredible, hemisphere-hopping adventure, then brings it all right back home with toasts to America’s own.

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