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“Heroes and Angels” Set to Inspire


Composer Nan Schwartz

Cambridge Symphony Orchestra’s concert Sunday, March 17th at Kresge at 4:00, steps away from the traditional to speak to challenges such as gender equality and an unnerving and sharp rise in hate crimes. In addition to Sibeliuss Symphony No. 5; and Joseph Schwantner’s New Morning for the World Daybreak of Freedom.” The event will also see the first live concert performance of Nan Schwartz’s trumpet tone poem Angels Among Us with noted jazz and classical trumpeter Joseph Foley as soloist.

Schwartz’s music has great line, beautiful colors, and a wonderfully elegant merging of styles. When I heard Angels Among Us I knew right away I had found a wonderful fit for the CSO and am very honored that she has entrusted us with the first public performance of it.

Narrating is a tricky thing; I knew that we needed someone who could live and feel the words of Dr. King, not just simply read them in New Morning for the World. Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond, like Dr. King, has a deep and ongoing commitment to serve, not just his church, but the broader community as well.

When one performs new works or works by living composers, it’s on your shoulders to capture its essence and communicate to listeners why this music has such great value. Without new music and innovation no art form can thrive and evolve.

And incidentally, in the last few years women have begun to thrive more in both conducting and composition, Yet much work remains to be done. As I have traveled from places where being a women conductor is a non-issue and we all get on with music-making, to places where gender equality across all fields remains elusive and the atmosphere is openly hostile to women stepping into traditionally male roles.

Joseph Foley, trumpet

Change, I have learned, comes in many steps and forms. Access and opportunity to learn, perform, and grow are vital. One thing the CSO can do to advance change is to make sure our programming is varied and reflects the broad spectrum of immense talent that exists in the music world. 

But both conducting and composition build on a lifetime of education and experience. It is my strong feeling that we must begin with our young women and girls, letting them know that first, they can and must dare to dream, and then to provide them with the training and leadership skills that they will need in order to succeed. 

In that way, handing a baton to a young four-year-old girl at an educational concert to conduct her first orchestra has as much power and resonance as any single performance by my wonderfully gifted professional female colleagues. 

Cynthia Woods has been music director of the Cambridge Symphony for 13 years.

Cambridge Symphony Orchestra presents: Heroes and Angels

Sunday, March 17, 2019 at 4pm
Kresge Auditorium at MIT, 48 Massachusetts Ave.
Tickets: $15-$25 |

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