Richard McKay Founds Dallas Chamber Symphony, Conducts Debut Concert at Dallas City Performance Hall
By Scott Cantrell | The Dallas Morning News
Helping to open Dallas’ City Performance Hall is a brand-new classical music ensemble. On Tuesday evening, the Dallas Chamber Symphony plays its first concert in what should be a dream setting, visually and acoustically, for precisely its kind of music.
The debut concert will comprise Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture, Manuel de Falla’s El amor brujo Suite, with mezzo-soprano Laura Mercado-Wright, and Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.
The new ensemble is the brainchild of Richard McKay, a Plano native with a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore.
“The option of starting up an orchestra is something I began investigating about a year ago,” he says. “What brought this orchestra about is probably the building of the new hall. That new space is really the first one that is really great for chamber music concerts in the Arts District. It’s acoustically very, very good, and is the right size for smaller works. We have been mobilizing people who believe there should be more opportunities for local musicians.”
Apart from naming his concertmaster, Jiang Wang, also the concertmaster of the Dallas Opera Orchestra, McKay’s pretty tight-lipped about both the roster of players and the funding of the new group.
“We have a core of about 36 players,” he says. “We have very good players. We draw a good deal from the Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Symphony, Dallas Symphony and other players around the area with excellent experience. We’ll draw from some extra players as needed.”
Chamber orchestra repertory has been underserved in the area, and McKay is also making a point of presenting contemporary American composers little exposed around here. Upcoming programs promise pieces by John Adams, Michael Torke and Christopher Theofanidis.
The definition of “chamber orchestra” also expands to include works as large-scale as the Brahms Fourth Symphony — originally performed, it should be noted, by what we would consider a chamber orchestra. The season’s final concert, in April 2013, will feature the winner of a new piano competition sponsored by the Dallas Chamber Symphony.
The six-concert season includes an Oct. 2 solo piano recital by Alessio Bax, playing music of Brahms, Rachmaninoff and Ravel, and a March 26 concert by the Wyeth String Quartet, comprising principal players of the Fort Worth Symphony. Two programs will include new chamber orchestra scores for silent films — Harold Lloyd’s A Sailor-Made Man and Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari — by Austin-based film composer Brian Satterwhite.
McKay started out as a pianist, earning a performance degree from the University of Texas at Austin. While there, though, he became interested in conducting, took some courses and led some university ensembles. He went on to get a master’s in conducting, assisting other conductors coming to audition when the orchestral conducting professor’s position opened up. From there, he went on to Peabody, where he studied with Gustav Meier and Markand Thakar.
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