When John Flannery won the Southeast Iowa Symphony Orchestra’s Young Artist competition in December, he thought he’d be playing one song with the orchestra. Now, according to SEISO conductor Robert McConnell, he’s playing in every piece on their upcoming program.
SEISO’s 68th Winter Masterworks series concert will start Saturday, Feb. 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa. There will be two subsequent performances at the Capitol Theater in Burlington on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 2 p.m., and later that day at the Iowa Wesleyan Chapel at 6:30 p.m.
A junior at Washington High School, Flannery will be performing the piece he won the Young Artists competition with, Maurice Ravel’s “Piano Concerto in G.” However, the band needed a percussion player to cover parts for “All My Spirit Tingled,” a piece premiering at the event, and Flannery volunteered to fill in.
“I got the (percussion) part last week,” Flannery said. While McConnell would not usually give another part to a performer already working on a solo, he was confident enough in Flannery that he told him he could have the part and gave it to him to practice.
Normally he would have used that week to practice the pieces on his school’s instruments, but with all the cancellations, he hasn’t been able to access those. “I don’t have any of those instruments here at my house, so I’ve just kind of had to sight read those parts on the spot.”
According to McConnell, the entire orchestra has been affected by the weather with certain members having to miss rehearsals due to difficult winter commutes, but he feels Flannery is doing a great job so far.
“With most players you’d tell them you don’t want them having many distractions,” McConnell said. “I don’t think he gets distracted very easily. I talked to his band directors about it and they all said, ‘Oh, he’ll be fine.’”
This will mark Flannery’s second time playing with SEISO, though the first time he’s played a solo or had to have a piece prepared with such short notice.
“It’s hard to describe how it feels,” Flannery said. “These are all just these really good musicians who have been with the orchestra a really long time. Then there’s someone like me who needs to play on level with them, but it’s been an awesome experience.”