The Next Concerto is…


As of right now, the next concerto I play with my orchestra is top secret. That is until the Chattanooga Symphony’s 2016-17 concert season is announced. I’ve been having a lot of fun dropping hints on Facebook and Twitter about which concerto it is though.

But I figured it would be interesting to share how and why I picked this concerto. Since I began my tenure with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, I’d made it clear that I wanted to perform concertos by living American composers. Jennifer Higdon’s Violin Concerto was the first one I played and the Chattanooga audience absolutely loved it!

The next concerto had a long list of must haves, especially coming on the heels of the Higdon success. The responsibility of bringing a compelling work by a living composer is not something to be taken lightly. I’m not going to ignore the fact that people paying $15-$80 per ticket want to feel some kind of guarantee that they will like a concerto. To many, that guarantee comes in the form of familiarity.

We all know a Brahms or Tchaikovsky will sell well. Those concertos have a history of likeability and are easily recognized. But the playing Higdon Violin Concerto proved that sometimes we just want to hear music written by people who are sharing the same air as us. People who are sharing the same world concerns, the same fears and joys.

So it was important for me to find a concerto that will share the sentiments of our decade, our feelings, and our lives. But also hold a familiarity and melody that would resonate with the audience.

I use my non-musician parents as my barometer for how a piece of music will generally be received. It is incredibly important to go in knowing that ticket buyers will enjoy a work I put on the plate, so to speak. I played segments of this top secret concerto for my parents this past summer and they gave an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

So here are the reasons I picked this composer’s concerto:

  1. To me, the work sounds like a movie score, perhaps James Bond or Avengers movie music. Just like an action packed movie, the concerto is exciting, driven, riveting, melodic, as well as a bit romantic.
  2. The score is full of virtuosic parts for many of the principal winds and brass players. This is extremely important to show off the talent within the Chattanooga Symphony. There is a gorgeous flute solo, harp solo, and tuba solo, among others.
  3. Just like with the Higdon concerto, I know the composer of this work very well. The composer is approachable, funny, generous, and a wonderful human being.
  4. The composition takes the listener on a journey, there is a compelling narrative that one can’t help but sense.
  5. The work ends loudly. (yes, this is important to me, I want people on their feet!)
  6. My parents like it!

I will be dropping hints for the next couple weeks on social media so feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter to play along with the guessing game. And when the composer is announced, start making travel plans to hear the work live, and meet the composer in person!

About Holly Mulcahy

After hearing Scheherazade at an early age, Holly Mulcahy fell in love with the violin and knew it would be her future. She currently serves as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. She spends her summers at the celebrated Grand Teton Music Festival. Believing in music as a healing and coping source, Holly founded Arts Capacity, a charitable 501(c)3 which focuses on bringing live chamber music, art, artists, and composers to prisons. Arts Capacity addresses many emotional and character-building issues people face as they prepare for release into society. Holly performs on a 1917 Giovanni Cavani violin, previously owned by the late renowned soloist Eugene Fodor, and a bespoke bow made by award winning master bow maker, Douglas Raguse.

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