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Former Sacramento youth musician returns

Charles Messersmith
Charles Messersmith

Season’s first concert is Oct. 15 at Three Stages in Folsom

“Light Out of the Darkness,” the Folsom Symphony’s Oct. 15 performance, its first of the 2011-12 season, will be a homecoming — and a bit of dejå vu — for clarinet soloist Charles Messersmith.

A graduate of Folsom conductor Michael Neumann’s Sacramento Youth Symphony, Messersmith will be the soloist for Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor. The piece is considered one of the finest ever written for the clarinet.

The concerto is one of three symphonies scheduled that evening. The other two are Johannes Brahms’ “Tragic Overture” and Peter Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 in F minor.

Twenty-four years ago, as a high school student, Messersmith played the von Weber concerto under Maestro Neumann to win a youth symphony concerto competition.

“I am looking forward to performing this great piece again with Michael,” Messersmith said. “Performing a great concerto twice with the same conductor is a remarkable opportunity. Preparing this piece has brought back so many great memories of those younger years.”

Maestro Neumann, in turn, welcomes home his former prodigy. “I haven’t seen Charlie since he graduated from the youth symphony in the 1980s,” he said. “I have a lot of very deep-seated satisfaction in having one of my former students come back.”

The former Carmichael resident and Del Campo graduate had almost a full music career before college. At age 9, he was the youngest member ever to play with the Sacramento Youth Band. In the 1980s, he marched in the opening parade of the Sacramento Dixieland Jubilee. He first played in an orchestra in sixth grade with the Junior Music Sponsors Symphony, and in 1982, at the age of 13, performed a solo written for him at the opening of the Sacramento Railroad Museum

After graduating to the Sacramento Youth Symphony, he “fell in love with performing in and with a symphony orchestra.”

He is now principal clarinet with the Charleston Symphony. He also plays for Charleston’s famed Piccolo Spoleto Arts Festival every spring and in the summers performs at the Wintergreen Music Festival in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

In “Light Out of the Darkness” Messersmith’s concerto will weave between mournful tunes and passages of light innocence. Throughout the piece, the clarinet responds with emotion to other instruments. A solo is the finale.

The concerto is the second of the three presentations that evening. The concert opens with “Tragic Overture” and concludes with Symphony No. 4. “Tragic Overture” is a dark, turbulent piece written as a companion to a mirthful work completed earlier. One laughs, the other cries, Brahms was quoted as saying.

The Tchaikovsky work, melancholy and passionate but ending flamboyantly, has become a staple of orchestral repertoire. It is a challenging piece to play.

“Tchaikovsky had a very troubled life,” Neumann said. “A lot of the music he wrote, including this symphony, expresses very deep emotion. … This concert will be very meaningful for everybody who attends, including the musicians.”

“Light Out of the Darkness” is being sponsored by U.S. Bank. It will be performed at Three Stages on the Folsom Lake College campus Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m. For tickets visit folsomsymphony.com or call (916) 357-6718.

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Posted by on Sep 22 2011.
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