Dr Debra Lynn photo
Dr. Lynn conducted the Manchester Symphony Orchestra’s first concert of the year over Homecoming weekend. Three more concerts will be held this season.
Photo provided by MU

Dr. Debra Lynn Conducts Manchester Symphony Orchestra’s 83rd Season

Ben Miles

When it comes to music, Dr. Debra Lynn is no stranger. From being a professor of music and department chair and director of both A Cappella Choir and Chamber Singers at Manchester University, Lynn has returned to reprise her role as conductor of the Manchester Symphony Orchestra (MSO), as it celebrates its 83rd season.

When Lynn returned from her sabbatical in Spring 2021, she began conducting the MSO. Does the MSO have a theme for the upcoming season? “We don’t really have a theme for the entire season but, we do have themes for each concert,” she said. In total, there will be four concerts. The first was held in October.

The second concert, entitled “Holiday Concert,” will be on Dec. 12. A featured composition, “Carol Symphony” by Hely-Hutchinson, is a beautiful full-length symphony with four movements. Lynn noted that each is a setting or arrangement of a familiar English Christmas Carol.

Another composition, “Sleigh Ride” by Delius, is a different piece from the popular “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson that is frequently performed by orchestras and bands and heard in shopping malls across the United States during the holiday season.

“The piece by Delius,” Lynn stated, “is much older than the Anderson and paints a lovely wintery scene that is as delicate and shimmery as the new-fallen snow.”

The final piece, “The Skater’s Waltz” by Waldteufel, is the standard Skater’s Waltz that most people will recognize.

“Trailblazers,” the third featured concert, will occur on March 13. “This concert will feature our Young Artist Competition Winners, two high school division winners and two collegiate division winners, playing or singing solo concertos or opera arias with orchestral accompaniment,” Lynn said. “I don’t know what those pieces will be yet as the competition isn’t until late November, but it’s sure to be a wonderful program.”

An important thing to remember is that the winners are taking on some very challenging repertoire, usually played by professionals. Lynn was very proud to mention that the major featured orchestral piece is “Symphony No. 1 in E Minor” by Florence Price, who was the first African American female to have her compositions performed by a major symphony orchestra. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performed this very symphony in 1933, which was quite a trailblazing feat for any woman composer at the time, not to mention a person of color.

The final concert of the season, “Spaces,” will take place on May 15. “This concert features the premiere of my concerto for viola and chamber orchestra entitled ‘Spaces,’” Lynn said. “This work consists of five movements, each exploring a physical space whose acoustic properties have impacted my life in one way or another.”

The movements are 1) Green Room, which is the room offstage where a soloist or conductor prepares for their performance; 2) Stadium; 3) Sanctuary; 4) Aviary; and 5) Buttery-Bar. This piece will be performed by the MSO’s guest artist, violist Derek Reeves. This concert will also include Hebrides Overture “Fingal’s Cave” by Mendelssohn; and “La Jolie Fille de Perth” by Bizet.

More information about the MSO can be found on the Manchester University homepage, or to schedule an audition, contact Lynn via e-mail (djlynn@manchester. edu).