Viva España! The music of Spain comes to the Koger Tuesday, November 17th

Beiging Guitar Duo USC Symphony Orchestra and guest artists Beijing Guitar Duo and mezzo-soprano Janet Hopkins take to the stage

The University of South Carolina’s premier orchestra plays the music of three Spanish composers and transports you to Spain for an evening at the Koger Center for the Arts on Tuesday, November 17 at 7:30 p.m.

The Beijing Guitar Duo joins the USC Symphony Orchestra for Joaquín Rodrigo’s Concierto madrigal. The composer, who was blind since age three, got his inspiration for the work from a 16th-century Italian madrigal, “O felici occhi miei” (Oh happy eyes of mine).

The Beijing Guitar Duo has performed throughout Europe, Asia and North America, racking up accolades along the way. The San Francisco Examiner described the duo as “Particularly skillful in fingering of rapid passages...uncanny synchronization.” The South Florida Classical Review wrote, “They capitalize on the rich palette of sounds the two-guitar medium is capable of, approaching the music with deeply felt expression.” Their debut CD Maracaípe, received a Latin-GRAMMY nomination for the titled piece, which was dedicated to them by renowned guitarist/composer Sergio Assad. Their second CD, Bach to Tan Dun, has been widely noted for the world-premiere recording of Tan Dun’s Eight Memories in Watercolor, specially arranged for the duo by Manuel Barrueco. Meng Su and Yameng Wang came to their partnership with exceptional credentials, including a string of competition awards. Ms. Su’s honors include victories at the Vienna Youth Guitar Competition and the Christopher Parkening Young Guitarist Competition, while Ms. Wang was the youngest guitarist to win the Tokyo International Guitar Competition at the age of 12, and was invited by Radio France to perform at the prestigious Paris International Guitar Art Week at age 14. Both artists have given solo recitals in China and abroad, and had made solo recordings before they formed the duo.

Metropolitan opera veteran Janet Hopkins sings Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo (Love, the Magician), which draws on the rich heritage of Andalusia with roots in the folk tradition. Ms. Hopkins debuted as a soprano at The Metropolitan Opera during the 1991-1992 season in The Ghost of Versailles, returning during the next seasons for Siegrune in Die Walküre, Parsifal and the Overseer in Elektra. While on tour with The Met in Japan, she sang a series of solo recitals in Tokyo, garnering extensive critical acclaim. As a mezzo-soprano, Hopkins sang Cosi fan Tutte with the Eugene Opera and served apprenticeships with the Michigan Opera Theatre and Des Moines Metro Opera. While making her vocal change, Ms. Hopkins was awarded grants and prizes from The Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition, the American Opera Auditions and the Wagner Society Grant along with a study grant from the Singers Development Fund of The Metropolitan Opera. In addition to touring extensively with The Met, Ms. Hopkins has performed in Japan, throughout Europe and the U.S. and has appeared at Carnegie Hall and at the opening ceremonies of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.  Ms. Hopkins is associate professor of voice at the University of South Carolina.

Also on the program is Joaquín Turina’s La oración del torero (Prayer of the Bullfighter). The work combines conventional music forms with the composer’s Andalusian, particularly Sevillian, heritage in a style that also absorbs Romantic and Impressionistic elements.

Tickets on sale now Tickets: $30 general public; DISCOUNTS: $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Call 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

USC Symphony Orchestra opens the season with “empress of the keyboard,” Natasha Paremski

Natasha Paremski

The University of South Carolina’s premier orchestra ensemble, led by acclaimed music director Donald Portnoy, receives accolades for its fine performances. The first concert of the 2015-2016 season brings guest artist pianist Natasha Paremski, called “empress of the keyboard” by the Kalamazoo Gazette. The San Francisco Classical Voice wrote Paremski, “… has a real feeling for lush romantic music, the ability to handle blazingly rapid passagework, beautifully executed trills, and all made to look very easy.” Paremski will play Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor.

The concert takes place at the Koger Center for the Arts on Tuesday, September 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The Concerto nearly brought the composer and his friend Nikolay Rubinstein to blows. The work was met by harsh criticism from his friend, whom he had asked for advice. The suggested changes did sit well with Tchaikovsky and were not made. Tchaikovsky dedicated the work, not to Rubenstein as was first intended, but to Hans von Bülow, the famous German pianist and conductor who already liked Tchaikovsky’s music.

Ironically, it was Rubinstein who eventually showed the Concerto off to its best advantage, admitting he had been wrong about it several years later. The eccentricities of the First Piano Concerto, some of which may have caused Rubinstein’s disparagement, are now considered some of its greatest charms.

Also on the September program is Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2 in D major, his most popular symphony. The symphony, associated with the Finnish landscape and a patriotic program, was a work the composer actually conceived in Italy. The symphony was begun in winter 1901 in Rapallo, Italy, finished in Finland in 1902 and first performed by the Helsinki Philharmonic Society in March 1902. Finland was undergoing turmoil at the turn of the 20th century and was experiencing a nationalistic fervor against the oppression of its Russian occupiers. Although the composer claimed no patriotic intent was inherent in the work, Helsinki audiences had understood the new symphony to be an overt expression of the political conflict reigning over Finland.

Tickets now on sale Single concert tickets are $30 general public; Discounts: $25 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $8 students. Call 803-777-7500 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online

Save with a season subscription Save with a season subscription (6 concerts) and enjoy the best seats in the house: $150 general public; Discounts: $110 senior citizens, USC faculty and staff; $45 students.

See the season’s details at

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.