News Story: Elizabeth Hogue Solos in VSO Wagner Program
Editorial: Possible Silver Lining for Local Musicians
in the Economic Downturn?

When the calendar went out on Monday, January 5th it included, for the second week, the Virginia Symphony Wagner program Ride of the Valkyries listing. Two days later we received a note from Elizabeth Hogue telling us that she would be the guest vocalist, singing the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde for all three performances. Unfortunately no VSO publicity listed her as soloist.

In looking into the details of the story we are reminded of a major and long-standing problem in our local music community. Simply put, local talent is undervalued by the arts establishment. Why didn't the symphony bother to publicize this very talented, local singer? Readers of Artsong Update issue #66 which included a review of Ms. Hogue's CD Singing ARIAS with Passion were not surprised by the glowing review of her performance last weekend by Virginian-Pilot music critic Lee Teply. For once the Pilot ran a review even though the headliner was local!

We enquired how the singing engagement had come about. Ms. Hogue was hired in mid-October, 2008 and had put her full focus in learning this piece. Rodney Martell, VSO acting arts administrator, knew her from a Messiah performance in 2007 with the symphony and had offered her the Wagner engagement. She did not have time to also do publicity for the event.

The excellent news is that VSO Conductor Joann Falletta has asked Ms. Hogue to sing in the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra's performance of the same program later this year and has asked her to suggest other repertory she would like to sing with the symphony.

Our regional opera company, Virginia Opera, has not cast a local performer in a major role for many years. Why? When Ambrosia Quartet was in great form why did the Virginia Arts Festival not use their clout to plan and advertise this group to build a large, local audience?

Sandi Billy at Virginia Wesleyan College is a model for showcasing local talent for their VWC Concert Series. Ms. Billy features local talent in a diversified concert season that includes visiting groups as well, many nationally and even internationally known.

With the economic downturn, perhaps instead of cutting back on programs the high budget arts groups can mine local talent to continue giving rich and varied arts experiences to the community.

No national brand of pasta sauce can touch the quality of the best our local chefs and home cooks can offer. Our local artists may require more nurturing than the pre-packaged arts programs but we might find ourselves with a truly regional opera company, string quartet, first rate violin soloist or piano-duo. There couldn't be a better time.

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