Conway Orchestra to Present Unfinished Business

The Conway Symphony Orchestra will take care of some “unfinished business” April 22 when the orchestra presents its final concert of the 2016-2017 season.
Israel “Izzy” Getzov, CSO music director and conductor, said the orchestra will present three pieces of music in the concert, titled Unfinished Business.
“We will present Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, commonly known as the ‘Unfinished Symphony,’” Getzov said.
“It is a musical composition that Schubert started in 1822 but left with only two movements — though he lived for another six years,” Getzov said. “However, we will be performing the partial third movement of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished Symphony’ as part of the performance.
“Usually when Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ is performed, the musicians only play the first two movements,” he said. “Schubert did complete 20 measures of the third movement, but because it’s not complete, it’s usually left out. So this performance will sound much more unfinished than usual.”
A second part of the April 22 repertoire will feature Kelly Johnson’s performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major. Johnson is an associate professor of clarinet at the University of Central Arkansas and is the principal clarinetist for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. She performed regularly as the principal clarinetist with the Conway Symphony Orchestra for several years.
“When I first began teaching at UCA, many of the faculty members played principal in the Conway Symphony Orchestra, and the students played second,” she said. “But over the years, that has changed, and the faculty members quit playing in order to give the students more opportunities. That’s how it should be.”
Johnson, 46, and her husband, Todd Johnson, both native Missourians, moved to Conway in 1997. Kelly Johnson, who holds a Master of Music degree in clarinet performance and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in clarinet performance from Arizona State University, taught at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville for several years before accepting a position at UCA in 2006. Todd Johnson is a band director at Conway Junior High School and Carl Stuart Middle School.
The Johnsons have one son, Aaron, 14, who plays trombone in the band at Conway Junior High School.
“My parents played clarinet,” Kelly Johnson said, smiling, as she explained how she became interested in playing that instrument. “I wanted to play clarinet, too.”
Johnson said Mozart’s clarinet concerto marked the first time a piece for the clarinet was written by a major composer.
“The clarinet is the youngest of the orchestral family,” she said. “When Mozart wrote [the concerto] in 1791, we had music for the clarinet, but this music put the clarinet on the map. It’s a fine piece.”
Getzov described Mozart’s clarinet concerto as “truly a work of perfection, sublime and joyful beyond words.
“And in the hands of an artist like Kelly with her boisterous energy and buttery tone, … I’m so excited to make music with her.”
Johnson said she has played the concerto, which was written just two months before Mozart died in December 1791, several times in the past, including with the Pine Bluff Symphony and the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra.
“I’m really excited to be playing it with Izzy and the Conway Symphony Orchestra,” she said. “Izzy chose the piece and asked me to perform it. It’s a pretty lengthy piece, about 30 minutes.”
Johnson has been a soloist at several International Clarinet Association conventions.
“I will be playing at the ClarinetFest 2017 in July in Orlando, Florida,” she said. “My husband and son will not be able to go with me, however, as they will be involved in Boy Scout activities during that time.”
She travels frequently to perform and teach, and most recently traveled with UCA musicians to Taiwan and South Korea. She has also been to Scotland and China.
Johnson has released two CDs — Clarinet Unlimited and Child’s Play: Stories, Songs and Dances — and is working on a third CD.
“I think I have one more in me,” she said, smiling.
The final piece of the upcoming concert will be the premiere of a commissioned piece, “Stall(ed),” written by Ryan Key of Mountain Home, winner of the Conway Composers Guild W. Francis McBeth Memorial Competition.
Getzov said he asked Key to use the Schubert piece as his “inspiration,” to “finish” the symphony in a way.
Key, 23, is a graduate of Mountain Home High School. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville in May with a music degree in composition and a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations.
“When Izzy told me they were going to play Bach’s ‘Unfinished Symphony,’ I knew I somehow wanted to connect my piece to that big picture in some way,” Key said. “So I took some small idea from that piece to create an idea in my head and then in the final piece.
“When something is unfinished, or incomplete, there is a pause, or a stall, or it can stop and then continue, or it can stop altogether,” Key said.
“That’s where I was in my life,” he said. “When I first heard about the competition, I had just applied to grad school and wasn’t sure if I would get in, or where I would get in. I had a ‘stall’ in my life as well.”
Key said he has since been accepted into two graduate programs and is trying to decide which one to choose.
“This is my first professional commission,” Key said. “I can’t wait to attend a rehearsal and see how it sounds. And then I will be there on April 22 for its premiere.”
Unfinished Business will be presented at 7:30 p.m. April 22 at the Donald W. Reynolds Performance Hall at UCA. Tickets are available at the box office, (501) 450-3265 and at Adult tickets range from $20 to $38, and children/student tickets are $5, with discounts for groups and UCA faculty/staff.