USC Symphony Orchestra Celebrates Master of Song, Cole Porter - Feb. 24th

  Cole Porter


Warm the cold February chill with a tribute to Cole Porter, one of the major songwriters for the Broadway stage. The concert takes place at the Koger Center for the Arts on Tuesday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. Four soloists and chorus celebrate some of Porter’s greatest hits including I Get a Kick Out of You, You’re the Top, All Through the Night, I Love Paris, Begin the Beguine, So in Love, and Night and Day.


Led by acclaimed director Donald Portnoy, University of South Carolina’s premier orchestra ensemble, the USC Symphony Orchestra, has received accolades for its fine and mature performances. Tickets are on sale now at


Joining the USC Symphony Orchestra for the concert are USC music faculty members, Tina Milhorn Stallard (soprano), Janet Hopkins (mezzo-soprano), Walter Cuttino (tenor), Jacob Will (baritone), and the Dreher High School Chorus.


Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics as well as the music for his songs, which are full of double entendres, clever internal rhymes, and sophisticated uses of melody, rhythm and harmony. Some of the cleverest, funniest and most romantic songs ever written came from the pen of Cole Porter.


Born in Peru, Indiana in 1891, Cole Porter was born into a wealthy family, studying violin and piano as a child at the insistence of his mother. Although violin was a struggle for the young Cole, the piano allowed him to produce the harmonies that captivated him and that would set him on his way to a successful musical career.


Although he was not a good student, he attended Worcester Academy in preparation for an Ivy League college, and it was there that he began composing witty songs at the age of eight. He soon learned he could win over the boys his age with the risqué lyrics that would become his trademark.


Porter went on to Yale University, where he almost flunked out – he was too busy with extracurricular musical activities. It was here that he began to get his songs published. Most students at Yale knew him for the fight songs he would write, many of which continue to be Yale classics.


Surprisingly, the likeable and industrious Porter was accepted to Harvard Law School, but was subsequently transferred into the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. During his first year at Harvard in 1915, he had two of his songs performed in Broadway shows, and his own “patriotic comic opera,” See America First, made it to the Broadway stage the following year.


Porter was able to enjoy a charmed social life flitting between Paris, London and Venice. After some early flops, he eventually won over critics and audiences. He produced one of his greatest hits with Gay Divorce, Fred Astaire’s last stage show, which was later made into a blockbuster Hollywood film starring Astaire and Ginger Rodgers. Many hits followed, and in 1948 he wrote his masterpiece, Kiss Me, Kate, winning the coveted Tony Award for Best Score.


Tickets are on sale now by calling Capitol Tickets at 803-251-2222, online at, or in person at the Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets. $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students.

The USC Symphony Orchestra presents music by American masters Bernstein, Gershwin, and Ellington

Donald Portnoy As American as apple pie, Maestro Portnoy and the USC Symphony Orchestra offer a delightful slice of American classics, bringing you the music of Leonard Bernstein, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington. Best-loved music of America’s great composers takes place Tuesday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Koger Center for the Arts.


One of the most celebrated figures in the history of big-band jazz, Duke Ellington is renowned both as a composer and as a performer. The concert presents a medley of Ellington’s greatest music from his most creative years with hits like Don’t Get Around Much Anymore, Do Nothin’ ‘Til You Hear From MeSophisticated Lady, and It Don’t Mean A Thing, If It Ain’t Got That Swing. Also on the concert from the Duke is Harlem. Composed in 1950 it depicts the black experience, celebrating in particular, Ellington’s adopted home. The first performance of Harlem by the Duke’s jazz band took place at an NAACP benefit concert at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1951. Ellington described the piece in his autobiography as “a strolling tour of Harlem on a Sunday morning, from 110th Street up Seventh Avenue, heading north through the Spanish and West Indian neighborhood toward the 125th Street business area. Everybody is nicely dressed and on their way to or from church. Everybody is in a friendly mood – even a real hip chick standing under a street lamp….” For Harlem, Ellington wrote prominent wind and brass solos, requiring great virtuosity from each. The concluding section of wild but elegant abandon suggests that the day’s tour has ended up in the Harlem nightclubs.


The musical score of Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story is a powerful combination of energy, vibrant Latin American rhythms, jazz elements and memorable melodies. Symphonic Dances was premiered in 1961 with Lukas Foss conducting the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, in a pension fund gala concert. Bernstein had revisited his West Side Story score, composed in 1957, extracting nine sections and reordering them in a new, uninterrupted sequence for “Symphonic Dances.” Two of the most popular songs of the musical were included, Somewhere and Maria.

George Gershwin and friends took a holiday in Havana in 1932 that made an impact on the composer’s work. Gershwin called the trip, “two hysterical weeks in Cuba where no sleep was had.” Upon his return, he enthusiastically set out to compose work based on the music he heard playing in clubs and by roving street bands. Cuban Overture is a symphonic overture that embodies the essence of the Cuban dance with infectious rhythms. Gershwin was particularly taken with Cuban percussion instruments and brought back four of them featured in full force – claves, bongo, guiro and maracas – placing them right in front of the conductor’s stand. First titled Rumba, it premiered in 1932 at the first all-Gershwin concert at New York’s Lewisohn Stadium for a cheering crowd of 18,000 people, with a reported 5,000 turned away. “It was,” Gershwin later said, “the most exciting night I have ever had.”

Purchase Tickets

Single concert tickets are $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Concert tickets are available from Capitol Tickets: 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online at -- Donald Portnoy, music director. Concerts take place at the Koger Center for the Arts at 7:30 p.m.


USC Symphony Orchestra opens the season with the music of Russia

Professor of Conducting / Violin / Ira McKissick Koger Professor of Fine Arts School of Music Zuill Bailey, among the most sought after cellists today, has been praised for his "virtuoso technique, strong, richly expressive tone and bold, individual manner of playing" by Gramophone Magazine. Bailey will play Sergei Prokofiev’s Sinfonia Concertante for cello and orchestra on the season opening Russian Extravaganza! concert.


The three movements of the work are expansive and diverse with a wide variety of themes and speeds that demand a cellist of exceptional technique and musicality. Also known as the Symphony Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, it is widely viewed as one of the most challenging works in the entire cello repertoire and is complex in its relationship between orchestra and soloist.


The piece is a departure from the concerto tradition; instead of the typical fast-slow-fast scheme, the central allegro giusto is the dominant movement and one of the longest movements ever written by Prokofiev. The outer movements are slow, and the central movement, in contrast, is quick and scherzo-like, filled with difficult technical gymnastics for the solo cello. The cello is called upon to make use of its entire range, from the deepest bass register to tenuous violin-like sounds, and shows off an entire gamut of techniques such as spiccato (bouncing bow), rapid alternations between arco (bowed) and pizzicato (plucked), and complicated double-stopping (playing two notes simultaneously).


Prokofiev composed the first sketches while in Paris during the summer of 1933. The unsuccessful premiere of the completed cello concerto, in which the soloist had difficulty with the work, took place in November 1938 in Moscow. Prokofiev revised the piece and the revised version was performed in 1940 in the United States. But it was not until seven years later that Prokofiev was to hear a successful performance by one of the greatest cellists of all time, Mstislav Rostropovich. Rostropovich and Prokofiev spent the summers of 1950-1952 recasting the work in its definitive form and it premiered in February 1952 with Rostropovich performing the solo part.


The USC Symphony Orchestra will also play one of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s most joyous compositions at the September concert, Symphony No. 2 in C minor, in which the composer uses Ukranian folk songs to great effect. The critic Nikolay Kashkin coined the work the  “Little Russian” for the folk tunes from the Ukraine region, then colloquially known as Little Russia.

The orchestration of the Symphony was begun in September 1872 while the composer was in Moscow. In December of that year the composer wrote to his father, "I've been slaving over my new symphony, which is now, thank God, finished....”

In Tchaikovsky's letters to his younger brother Modest he wrote, "…This work of genius (as Nikolay Dmitriyevich calls my symphony) is near to completion, and as soon as the parts are ready it will be performed. It seems to me that this is my best work insofar as perfection of form is concerned—not normally my highest virtue."

The Second Symphony was performed for the first time in Moscow at the seventh Russian Musical Society concert in January 1873. Tchaikovsky shared his impressions of the concert with his father, "My symphony was performed here last week with great success; there were many calls for me and bursts of applause. The success was so great that it will be played again at the tenth symphony concert, for which they are already taking subscriptions to present me with a gift."

Tchaikovsky told his brother in February 1873, "When I was in Petersburg I played the finale one evening at Rimsky-Korsakov's, and the whole company almost tore me to pieces with rapture…."

Despite its success, Tchaikovsky revised the work heavily eight years later. Following its more extensive revisions in December 1879 and January 1880, the reworked Second Symphony was performed in St. Petersburg to great acclaim.


Purchase Tickets

Save with a season subscription (7 concerts) and enjoy the best seats in the house: $150 general public; $110 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $45 students. Single concert tickets are $30 general public; $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Capitol Tickets: 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online at


About the USC Symphony Orchestra

The University of South Carolina’s premier orchestra ensemble, led by acclaimed music director Donald Portnoy, receives accolades for its fine performances. World-renowned guest artists join the ensemble throughout the year to bring you a stirring seven-concert season with music by the most dynamic composers.