Beethoven's Ode to Joy

Beethoven's Ode to Joy

Beethoven's Ninth: Ode to Joy

The 2021-2022 Masterworks Series
Sponsored by Paul and Linnea Bert

Robert Moody, conductor 
Laquita Mitchell, soprano | Taylor Raven, alto 
Limmie Pulliam,
tenor | Joshua Conyers, baritone
University of Mississippi Concert Singers,
        Dr. Donald Trott and Dr. Elizabeth Hearn
, directors
Memphis Symphony Chorus, Dr. Lawrence Edwards, director

Saturday, March 26, 2022 · 7:30pm · Cannon Center for Performing Arts

Sunday, March 27, 2022 · 2:30pm · Cannon Center for Performing Arts

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(b. 1986)



Symphony No. 9 in D-minor, op. 125
 I. Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso
 II. Molto vivace
 III. Adagio molto e cantabile
 IV. Presto - Allegro assai - Allegro assai vivace

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Meet the Musicians 


Music Director Robert Moody 

2021/2022 marks Maestro Robert Moody’s fifth season as Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.  Expanded and adventurous programming, the MSO’s first commercial recording in over three decades, and a new $25-million-dollar endowment have highlighted the past two seasons.  Moody is also Music Director of the lauded Arizona Musicfest, boasting one of the finest festival orchestras in North America.  Players hail from the top orchestras in the world, including the Vienna and New York Philharmonics, Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, and San Francisco Symphonies, and the San Francisco and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras.

In 2018 Moody completed eleven-years as Music Director for the Portland Symphony Orchestra (Maine), thirteen-years as Music Director of the Winston-Salem Symphony (NC).  Prior to that he served as Resident Conductor for the Phoenix Symphony, Chorus Master for Santa Fe Opera, and Associate Conductor for the Evansville (IN) Philharmonic Orchestra.

Moody recently guest conducted the three major orchestras of South Africa in Durban, Johannesburg, and Cape Town; he was immediately invited to return for more concerts in the Summer of 2020.  Other guest conducting this season includes the orchestras of Bogota, Colombia; Aachen, Germany; Sacramento, California; and a return to the Sewanee Music Festival in the mountains of Tennessee.  Prior Guest Conducting has included Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and the orchestras of Toronto, Houston, Indianapolis, Detroit, Seattle, Ft. Worth, San Antonio, Buffalo, Columbus, Louisville, Minnesota, and Slovenian Philharmonic.  Festival conducting includes Santa Fe Opera, Spoleto Festival USA, Brevard Music Center, Sewanee Festival, Eastern Music Festival, Skaneateles Festival, Bowdoin International Festival, and the Oregon Bach Festival.

Equally at home in the opera pit, Moody began his career as apprentice conductor for the Landestheater Opera in Linz, Austria.  He conducted for the opera companies of Santa Fe, Brevard Music Center, and Hilton Head Opera.  He also assisted on a production of Verdi Otello at the Metropolitan Opera (NY), conducted by Valery Gergiev, and at The English National Opera, where he was Assistant Conductor for Kurt Weill Street Scene.  He made his Washington National Opera and North Carolina Opera debuts in 2014, and conducted Bartok Bluebeard’s Castle, Leoncavallo I Pagliacci, and Poulenc Dialogues of the Carmelites in the seasons following.  Debuts to rave reviews with Brevard Music Center for Weill Street Scene, Opera Carolina for Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro, and Des Moines Metro Opera for Strauss Die Fledermaus came in 2017 and 2018.

Moody is a champion of the works of his close friend Mason Bates, now Composer-in-Residence with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and prior in the same role with the Chicago Symphony.  Moody commissioned/conducted Bates’ first full orchestra composition, and has been instrumental in the commission and premiere performances of several of Bates’ important major works for orchestra, including OdeRusty Air in Carolina, and Desert Transport.

Moody’s work can be heard on several commercially released recordings.  He collaborated with the Canadian Brass for their Bach and Legends albums.  He is also the conductor for Native American artist R. Carlos Nakai’s Fourth World album.  In 2015 he was honored to conduct the “Cancer Blows” gala concert with Ryan Anthony, members of the Dallas Symphony, and a host of trumpet luminaries, to aid the fight against Multiple Myloma.  CD and DVD recordings of that live concert are also commercially available.  Fall of 2019 will see the release of Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s first commercial recording in several decades.  The works are Jim Stephenson’s Concerto for Hope featuring Ryan Anthony, and Song of Hope” by Peter Meechan – featuring Ryan Anthony and Scott Moore.

A South Carolina native, Moody holds degrees from Furman University and the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Donald Neuen.  He is a Rotarian, and serves/has served on the boards of AIDs Care Services, Winston-Salem YMCA, WDAV Radio, and the Charlotte Master Chorale.  Maestro Moody is an avid runner, swimmer, and snow-skier.


Laquita Mitchell, soprano

Soprano Laquita Mitchell consistently earns acclaim in eminent opera companies throughout North America and Europe. Already in her young career, she has led performances with the Los Angeles Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, New York City Opera, Washington National Opera, Opéra Comique in Paris, among many others.


In her compelling debut as Bess in Porgy and Bess with the San Francisco Opera, Opera News said “Soprano Laquita Mitchell, in her first outing as Bess, dazzled the SFO [San Francisco Opera] audience with her purity of tone and vivid theatrical presence.” She has since reprised the role with New Jersey State Opera, the Atlanta Opera; Madison Symphony, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (at both Tanglewood and Symphony Hall), and also the Robert Russell Bennett Porgy and Bess Suite with the Cleveland Orchestra, Santa Barbara Symphony, Sheboygan Symphony and with the Polish Chamber Philharmonic Orchestra in Sopot, Poland.


Hailed in the New York Times for her portrayal of Violetta  in Verdi’s “La Traviata” in New York City Opera’s 2012 season opener said “Ms. Mitchell’s voice is rich, shimmering and sizable, her singing was tender and expressive”.  Other notable appearances include Micaela in Carmen at the New York City Opera; Leonora in Il trovatore in South Carolina as well as with Nashville Opera; the role of Sharon in Terrance McNally’s Master Class at the Kennedy Center; Musetta in La bohème in a return to the Los Angeles Opera; Mimì in La bohème with Cincinnati Opera and at the Utah Symphony and Opera; Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Florentine Opera, Portland Opera; and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Opera New Jersey.

Click here for full bio.


Taylor Raven, alto

Taylor Raven will close the 2020-21 season with a role and house debut with Des Moines Metro Opera as Polina in Tchaikovsky’s Pique Dame and a house debut as Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with Finger Lakes Opera. During the 2020-21 season, Taylor was also scheduled to debut at the Minnesota Opera as Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola and make a role/house debut as the title role of Bizet’s Carmen at Opera San Jose. In the 2021-2022 season, Taylor looks forward to many debuts on the opera and concert stage. She will make her house debut with Houston Grand Opera as Dritte Dame in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte and will make a role/house debut with North Carolina Opera in Paul Moravec’s Sanctuary Road as Clarissa Davis. Taylor will make a role/house debut as Mallika in Delibes’ Lakmé with Washington Concert Opera. She will perform as the alto soloist in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Dallas Symphony under conductor Fabio Luisi, Baltimore Symphony under conductor Marin Alsop and the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductor Gustavo Dudamel.

In the 2019-20 season, Taylor was scheduled to debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Grimgerde in Wagner’s Die Walküre and cover Flosshilde in Wagner’s Das Rheingold/Götterdämmerung. She was seen as Rosina in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Concepción in Ravel’s L'heure espagnole as a 2019 Filene Artist at Wolf Trap Opera. She made her Alice Tully Hall debut, appearing with the American Symphony Orchestra for a concert of Bach arias. She is a recent alum of the Domingo-Colburn-Stein Young Artist Program at the Los Angeles Opera, where she was seen as Dritte Dame in the Kosky production of Die Zauberflöte, Annio in La clemenza di Tito, Tebaldo in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and the Sandman in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

In 2018-2019 Taylor made her Los Angeles Philharmonic debut as a soloist in the Hollywood Bowl performance of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. She appeared with the New West Symphony in Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky and made her Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra debut as a soloist in Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied as a part of their May Festival. In 2017-18 Taylor performed with Wolf Trap Opera and the National Orchestral Institute Philharmonic, making a Naxos Classical recording of Bernstein’s Songfest. She won 1st prize in the 2018 Loren L. Zachary competition and is a recipient of a 2017 Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation.


Limmie Pulliam, tenor

Rising tenor Limmie Pulliam continues to thrill audiences with his captivating stage presence and his “stentorian, yet beautiful,” sound.  The 2021/22 season has been highlighted by his highly-anticipated L..A. Opera debut as Manrico in Verdi's Il Trovatore where he was lauded by the Los Angeles Times for his "healthy, focused, ringing tenor."  He followed that with a successful role debut as Turiddu in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana with Vashon Opera.  Upcoming performances include his company debut with Livermore Valley Opera in the title role Verdi's Otello,  his company debut in Fort Worth Opera's A Night of Black Excellence Concert, and his rescheduled appearance with The Memphis Symphony Orchestra as the tenor soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.


‚ÄčIn the 2020/21 COVID-affected season, Mr. Pulliam's original engagements included his role debut as Florestan in Fidelio with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra (canceled). During the shortened 2020/19 season, he appeared with the Springfield Regional Opera for their 40th Anniversary Gala (performed), and made his debut with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra (performed) for a gala concert. He was a featured performer for the 6th Annual Viennese Opera Ball in New York and appeared in recital in Charlotte, NC and at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, OH.  Additionally, he was slated to join the Newport Music Festival during the summer for a concert of Verdi selections (canceled).


Counted among his appearances in the 2018-19 season were debuts with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in his native Missouri in Verdi’s Messa da Requiem, the world premiere of Nicholas White’s Immortality with the Concord Chorale in celebration of their 50th season, and a company debut as Otello in Maryland Opera’s Verdi in the Valley Gala. Most recently, Mr. Pulliam joined the Canadian Opera Company covering the title role for their production of Verdi’s Otello.

Click her for full bio.


Joshua Conyers, baritone

Baritone Joshua Conyers has been hailed by Opera News with “a deliciously honeyed baritone that would seduce anyone” and The New York Times as having “a sonorous baritone” that “wheedled and seduced.”  Mr. Conyers, a native of Bronx, NY, is quickly being championed for his captivating performances as he continues to be recognized as one the promising young dramatic voices of today. Equally active in contemporary opera, Mr. Conyers performed the role of Uncle Wesley in Carlos Simon’s Night Trip for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative and Ed in the world premiere of Everything for Dawn produced by Experiments in Opera with leading composers Kamala Sankaram and Aaron Siegel. Mr. Conyers covered the roles of Mr. Umeya in the American premiere of Huang Ruo's Dr. Sun Yat-Sen in Mandarin Chinese, and Walt Whitman in the world premiere of Theodore Morrison's Oscar, both with the Santa Fe Opera.

For the 2021-2022 season, Mr. Conyers will make his house and role debut as Policeman 3/Congregant 3 in Jeanine Tesori’s Blue with Seattle Opera, Schaunard in Puccini’s La bohème with Annapolis Opera, his house debut at Opera Memphis performing the role of Tonio in Pagliacci, and Reginald in Anthony Davis’ X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X with Michigan Opera Theatre, co-commissioned with Opera Omaha. Mr. Conyers will be performing and making a studio recording of the role Reginald in X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X with the Boston Modern Opera Project (BMOP). In the summer of 2021, Joshua was a Fleming Artist at the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS performing the role of Sprecher in W. A. Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte alongside world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming, under the baton of maestro Patrick Summers. Mr. Conyers was an Atlanta Opera Studio Player at The Atlanta Opera for the 2020-2021 season. Joshua performed the roles of Jackie "Tiger" Brown in Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera, Tonio in Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, and covered Kaiser Overall in Viktor Ullman’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis. Mr. Conyers was a member of the Cafritz Young Artists of Washington National Opera, a program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons. Joshua performed the roles of First Priest in The Magic Flute, John Sorel in The Consul, covered the Reverend in Tesori’s Blue, Jim and Jake (cover) in Porgy and Bess, Giorgio Germont in La traviata, British Major in Silent Night, Donkey in The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me, and Zaretsky in Eugene Onegin. As a Filene Artist at Wolf Trap Opera, he performed Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess: A Concert of Songs, Ramiro in Maurice Ravel’s L’heure espagnole, Musiklehrer in Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, Monterone in Rigoletto, Count Capulet in Roméo et Juliette, and the Baritone Soloist in Bernstein’s Songfest which was recorded by Naxos Records. Mr. Conyers fulfilled his residency as a Benenson Young Artist at Palm Beach Opera performing Yamadori in Madama Butterfly, Marullo in Rigoletto, Sciarrone in Tosca, Captain in Candide, and covering the Conte Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro.

Click here for full bio.


Lawrence Edwards, Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Chorus

Dr. Lawrence Edwards has been Artistic Director of the Memphis Symphony Chorus since the 1987-1988 season.  He recently retired from his position as Professor of Music and Coordinator of Choirs for the University of Memphis’ Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, a position held since 1987; his responsibilities there included directing the vocal ensemble Sound Fuzion, the University Singers and the University Chamber Choir.  He also taught and mentored both graduate and undergraduate students pursuing degrees in Choral Conducting.  During summers, Dr. Edwards taught graduate classes at Villanova University in Philadelphia, PA.  He is active as a choral clinician, working with junior and senior high school honor choirs throughout the nation.

Dr. Edwards received his undergraduate degree in music from Seattle Pacific University, where he directed the Seattle Pacific Singers.  He holds both Masters and Doctoral degrees in Music from the University of Illinois at Champaign, where he studied orchestral conducting with Romanian conductor Mircia Cristescu.  Prior to assuming his position at the University of Memphis and the Memphis Symphony, he was Director of Choral Activities, Music Director and Conductor of Musical Theatre at West Virginia University at Morgantown, West Virginia.

Dr. Donald Trott is the Director of Choral Activities at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford.  He conducts the Concert Singers, Men’s Glee and shares conducting duties for the University Chorus. His choirs have performed on several state, regional and national conferences of the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) and the MMEA (Mississippi Music Educators Association).  ACDA performances occurred in 1998, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2016 and 2020.  Choirs under his direction have performed in France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, and around the USA including the White House. As coordinator of the graduate choral conducting program, he teaches choral conducting and choral literature and supervises all graduate conducting recitals.  Dr. Trott is a past president of the Southern Region of the ACDA and of the Virginia chapter of ACDA. He received his Bachelor of Music Education degree cum laude from Westminster Choir College and both the Master of Music degree in choral conducting and Doctor of Musical Arts degree in choral conducting from the University of Oklahoma, under the direction of Dr. Dennis Shrock. Dr. Trott’s work on late eighteenth-century performance practice has resulted in articles in the Choral Journal as well as presentations at conventions for ACDA and the College Music Society. He has collaborated with Alexander Bernstein (son of Leonard Bernstein) on four Leonard Bernstein festivals and written two articles on Bernstein for the Choral Journal.  He is the author of the ACDA monograph titled Nineteenth Century Choral Music – An Annotated Bibliography of Music Suitable for College and University Choirs and is the editor of a new book titled Conducting Men’s Choirs published in 2020 and is available through GIA Publications. In February of this year, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Award at the 2022 ACDA Southern Region Conference.  He is also the adult choir director at Oxford University United Methodist Church and former conductor with CoroRio.


Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Hearn is Assistant Professor of Choral Music Education at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) where she conducts the Women’s Glee ensemble and University Chorus. She also teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in choral music education, conducting, and qualitative research methods. In addition to her responsibilities at Ole Miss, Dr. Hearn serves as the conductor of CoroArroyo and assistant conductor of CoroRio; both treble choirs comprised of young singers in the Midsouth Music Institute. Prior to joining the faculty at Ole Miss, Hearn received a Ph.D. in music education from the University of Alabama where she served as assistant conductor of the UA Women’s Chorus and taught courses in music education. Dr. Hearn previously held the position of Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Marian University in Indianapolis where she was the conductor and founder of Knight Fusion Singers and the University Chorus. Her career in secondary education began in Hueytown, Alabama where she served as the choral music director at Hueytown High School from 2003-2010. Dr. Hearn is an active conductor, presenter, clinician, and adjudicator. She has presented her research at international, national, regional, and state conferences. Her most notable accomplishment is being a proud Mom to Catherine (11) and Andrew (7).


Robert Moody's Notes

For nearly two centuries the Beethoven 9th has been played to signal the joy of unity in all Mankind, to celebrate the ends of wars and plagues.  We join that chorus of joy as we celebrate the end of trials and Pandemic tribulation!  And for the first time in nearly 25 years, our own Memphis Symphony Chorus will be joined by the full Ole Miss University Chorus, creating a total chorus of app. 175 singers!  

Michael Markowski is an exceptionally successful living conductor (especially with his works for marching and concert bands). About 10 years ago I commissioned him to write Joyride, which is a whirlwind of energy, capturing the spirit of Beethoven, and perfectly launching us into the 9th!

- Music Director Robert Moody

Program Notes

by Michelle Pellay-Walker 

Composer’s Program Note (Michael Markowski):  Joyride was originally composed in 2005, when I was a student at Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona.  Our symphonic band had been invited to play at Carnegie Hall in New York City, and my band director, Jon Gomez, proposed the idea of writing a short celebratory work to commemorate the occasion.  As I remember it, he said, “It would be cool to blend something joyful, something traditional—say, Beethoven’s Ode To Joy—with something more contemporary—like John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine.”  His idea excited me so much that within ten days, I had completed the first draft of this classical mash-up—a three-minute concert opener that dressed Beethoven’s famous melody in a tie-dyed blaze of rhythm and texture that nods humbly to Adams.  Although the original piece was composed for a high school symphonic band, I’m especially excited to share this new version reimagined for full symphony orchestra and transcribed specifically for the Arizona Musicfest 2016 Young Composer’s Fanfare Competition.”  Maestro Robert Moody makes the following observation:  “Joyride is a work which I believe is a perfect lead-off to perhaps the single most powerful symphony ever composed:  Beethoven’s 9th.  The piece is stunning, with a jubilant, youthful spirit, beautifully blended with Markowski’s talent for creating imagery with sound.”


Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Opus 125, is an enormous work, standing on its own for many years not only as the first symphony to incorporate vocalists, but also as one the longest symphonies ever written (one of the more interesting rumours is that the original length of CDs was determined partially to ensure that the Ninth Symphony could fit on a single disc).  Each movement is massive in its own right, not just the fourth.  The first is a large sonata form;  it begins in the “wrong” key (not unlike what happens at the beginning of the First Symphony), settling into the stated key of D Minor following the first big crescendo, and continues in a relatively straightforward manner from there.  The second movement scherzo may be one of the most famous in history (it was the featured closing theme of NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley News Report for many years, which is how I first learned it!), and is in the unusual position of being placed second instead of third in movement order.  Beethoven also writes the trio in a duple meter rather than continuing in a triple meter as expected (he did the same thing in his Sixth Symphony).   The third movement, a theme and variations similar in construction to the slow movement of the Fifth Symphony (in that it features two thematic ideas), is a showpiece not only for the first violins, but also for the horn with its extended solo in Variation Two (and the scoring calls for it to be played by Horn Four, rather than Horn One).  [This movement is considered to be one of Beethoven’s most beautiful Adagios, and is my personal favorite of the four.]  That leaves the fourth movement:  Following a nearly four-minute introduction featuring the cellos and double basses in an extended recitative-like passage in which the previous movements’ themes are referenced (and the primary fourth movement theme is hinted at), the main body is a huge theme and variations that is ultimately centered around the text of Friedrich von Schiller’s “An die Freude,” perhaps better known as “Ode to Joy.”  One should note, however, that the opening baritone recitative text is not Schiller’s, but rather Beethoven’s own:

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!  Sondern laßt uns angenehmere anstimmen, und freudenvollere.  Freude!  Freude!

[Oh friends, not these sounds!  Let us instead strike up more pleasing and more joyful ones.  Joy!  Joy!]