The winner of the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Elizabeth Loker Concerto Competition is Joseph McNure, a 22-year-old graduate student in music at the University of Maryland College Park, whose instrument of choice is the alto saxophone.
McNure was awarded $2,000 and a three-concert reprise in March of the winning performance of Paul Creston’s Concerto for Alto Saxophone, along with the full orchestra performing Mozart’s Symphony No. 33. The Creston concerto was a bold choice, composed by an Italian-American born to Sicilian immigrant parents in 1905. Creston died in 1985, and although he was a prolific composer whose work was widely performed through the 1950s, he was better known as a teacher in his later years. McNure interpreted the piece in an original classical jazz format, ranging from frantic piercing to quieter riffs that seemed to evoke familiar refrains you think you know but can’t quite place.
McNure, a Virginia Beach native, was the last of six finalists to perform Thursday night, January 9, at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. Six competitors were selected among about 40 applicants who were judged in December based on audio performances submitted to an MSO team. The team led by Terry Ewell, graduate director of music at Towson University, also consisted of Dane Krich, the orchestra’s general manager, and Julian Benichou, its music director. Ewell and Benichou were judges of the final round of the competition, while Krich emceed the evening’s proceedings.
While McNure said he was “thrilled” to win the competition, he’s been a winner before—capturing top honors in the University of Maryland Concerto Competition last fall.
Second-place was won by Joshua Lauretig, 25, who performed the oboe solo of Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major. Honorable mention went to 12-year-old Sophia Lin of Longfellow Middle School in Virginia, performing Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major. The other contestants were saxophonist Tae Ho Twang playing Alexander Glazunov’s Concerto in E-flat Major and cellists Yejin Hong and Eunghee Cho, both of whom performed, separately, Dvorak’s Cello Concerto.
In the awards presentation, Maestro Benichou noted that music competitions are not to be compared to athletic battles in that each contestant in music is out to play one’s best rather than to defeat fellow musicians. In solo competitions, he said, “We don’t learn music so much as learn about ourselves.”
Benichou also paid tribute to the competition’s namesake, the late Elizabeth Loker, longtime Easton supporter of the orchestra who bequeathed a gift to the MSO in her will.
As the winner of this first annual Elizabeth Loker Concerto Competition, Joseph McNure, will perform his triumphant Paul Creston piece with the orchestra, also performing the Mozart symphony, on March 5 at the Easton Church of God, March 7 at Ocean View Church of Christ, Ocean View, Delaware, and March 8 at the Community Church in Ocean Pines, Maryland. Tickets: $45, 888-846-8600.
Steve Parks is a retired journalist, arts writer and editor now living in Easton