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La Mer

February 9, 2019 at 8:00 pm

Echoing the mysteries of the sea, Debussy's La Mer summons the emotional power and psychological depths of wind and waves.

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La Mer


February 9, 2019
8:00 pm
$4.00 – $60.00
Event Category:


E.J. Thomas Hall
198 Hill Street
Akron, OH 44325 United States
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Echoing the mysteries of the sea, Debussy summons the emotional power and psychological depths of wind and waves. Composer Stella Sung’s seascape introduces a watery dialogue between marine and human life. And Moby Dick rises again in the haunting music of Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite composer.

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Christopher Wilkins, conductor
Timothy Culver, tenor
Brian Keith Johnson, baritone

Barber Adagio for Strings
featuring photographic essay “Then and Now, Changes from Above and Below” by David Arnold

Herrmann Moby-Dick (abridged)
Sung Oceana
featuring recorded songs of marine animals and human-generated sounds.
Film by Annie Crawley

Debussy La Mer

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Did You Know?


Composer Claude Debussy was influenced by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s Under the Wave off Kanagawa, leading Debussy to translate into music the sea’s sheer, awesome power in the finale of La Mer. (Source: The NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music)

Oceana incorporates ship horns, seismic blasts and the calls of sea mammals with string and wind instruments, highlighting the impact of noise pollution on marine life. The audience will have the opportunity to participate in the performance by downloading the Oceana Music & Sounds app to their iPhones. Download is available in the Apple app store.

Samuel Barber was the recipient of the Prix de Rome and a Pulitzer traveling grant at the age of 25. His Adagio for Strings is one of the best-known works of the 20th century. (Source: The NPR Listener’s Encyclopedia of Classical Music)

Debussy’s treatment of the sea as a musical subject is paramount in what many critics and audiences alike consider to be his orchestral magnum opus, La Mer. However, despite the evocative titles of the work’s three movements – From Dawn to Noon on the SeaPlay of the Waves, and Dialogue of the Wind and the Sea – La Mer is an example of the composer’s wish to create atmospheric music, rather than anything conventionally representational. (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Bernard Herrmann’s first composition for film was Citizen Kane. He then established a partnership with Alfred Hitchcock on a series of films, including VertigoNorth by Northwest and Psycho.

Guest Artists

Timothy Culver, tenor

Akron Symphony OrchestraTenor Timothy Culver has become a staple in the Great Lakes music scene. He has been described as having “a rich but penetrating tenor” and that he “faces florid tenor writing with a fearless vivacity.” 

Equally at home in both operatic and musical theater works, Timothy has performed with the Cleveland Opera, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Lansing Lyric Opera, Porthouse Theatre, Huron Playhouse and the Cleveland Orchestra.

Some recent roles include Count Almavira in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Alfredo in La Traviata and Albert Herring in the title role. During the inaugural season of the Opera Theatre of Lucca in Lucca, Italy, Timothy performed and studied under the direction of internationally renowned baritone, Lorenzo Malfatti.

A frequent recitalist, oratorio and concert soloist, Mr. Culver sang in the U.S. premiere of Erwin Schulhoff’s H.M.S. Royal Oak with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.

Brian Keith Johnson, baritone

Akron Symphony OrchestraBrian Keith Johnson has performed many roles in opera from Figaro in il barbiere di Siviglia to Ford in Falstaff. As a member of Actors’ Equity Association, he has also performed a variety of musical theater roles ranging from Jim in Big River to Father/God in Children of Eden.

His operatic roles are numerous, with local performances including the Kaiser in Cleveland Public Theatre’s production of Der Kaiser von Atlantis; Masetto in Don Giovanni and Valentin in Faust with Cleveland Opera; Dewain in I Was Looking At The Ceiling and Then I Saw The Sky, Belcore in The Elixir of Love and Figaro in The Barber of Seville with Lyric Opera Cleveland; Jake in Porgy and Bess (with Alvy Powell and Marquita Lister) with the Akron Symphony Orchestra; Sharpless in Madama Butterfly and Germont in La Traviata with Solon Center for the Arts; Albert in Werther, Peter in Hansel and Gretel and Belcore in The Elixir of Love with Nightingale Opera, and John Proctor in The Crucible with Kent State University.

Brian’s concert performances include The Wexford Carol and the role of Pasek in The Cunning Little Vixen with The Cleveland Orchestra; Porgy in Porgy and Bess, The Five Mystical Songs, The Bach Magnificat, The Messiah, Ein Deutsches Requiem, An Evening of Verdi and Puccini, The Mozart Requiem and Lee Hoiby’s I Have A Dream with the Akron Symphony Orchestra; Yamadori and The Imperial Commissioner in Madama Butterfly, the Brahms Requiem and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem with the Canton Symphony Orchestra; and Kirke Mechem’s Songs of the Slave from the opera John Brown with the Summit Choral Society.

About The Imagery

Stella Sung, composer

Oceana will be the third work from composer Stella Sung that we will perform, joining Rockwell Reflections and Lincoln’s Battle.

As a national and international award-winning composer, Stella Sung’s compositions are performed throughout the United States and abroad.  She served as the first Composer-in-Residence for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra (2008-2011), and was one of the five composers nationally selected for a Music Alive award, a three-year award that allowed Dr. Sung to serve as Composer-In-Residence for the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance (2013-16), sponsored by New Music USA, the League of American Orchestras, ASCAP, the Aaron Copland Fund, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation.

Premieres, performances, and commissions of Dr. Sung’s work have included compositions for world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, the German Ministry of Culture (Rhineland-Pfalz), the National Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Pops, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, the Wichita Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, the Akron Symphony Orchestra, the Sarasota Symphony Orchestra, the Jacksonville (Fla.) Symphony Orchestra, and other university and regional orchestras, chamber music ensembles, and soloists. 

Dr. Sung is director of the Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment (CREATE) at the University of Central Florida, College of Arts and Humanities.


In the spring of 2016, Maestro Christopher Wilkins and I attended a lecture at the New England Aquarium given by marine biologists Scott Kraus (VP and Senior Science Advisor, NEAq) and Christopher Clark (Cornell University) in which we learned about the problems of ocean noise pollution caused by seismic testing, the air guns used for this process, large ships and ocean vessels, and other man-made noises. The effects of these noises can be devastating for all marine species from fish to plankton, but particularly for those that depend upon sound waves for their communication, finding food sources, and navigation.

With this knowledge in mind, I decided that my new composition, Oceana, would have a focal point of reminding us of how important the ecosystem of the oceans are for not only marine life but for human life as well.  I have compiled a soundtrack comprised of recordings of marine life animal sounds (various whale, dolphin, seals, and other sounds) that runs throughout the piece.  The work is divided into three basic sections; 1) the beauty, majesty, and mystery of the seas and the life forms that live there, 2) the man-made disturbances of that ecosystem, and 3) the hope that humans can find a balance of living alongside the oceans and marine life so that our co-existence is based upon respect and understanding and knowledge. Working with the NEAq and other scientists, Maestro Wilkins, and marine underwater film-maker/ photographer/scuba diver and educator Annie Crawley, we have formed a collaborative effort in bringing not only the composition to life, but to help bridge a deeper understanding and appreciation for the wonders of the oceans.

Film Credits

Dr. Christopher W. Clark, Johnson Senior Scientist, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University

Dr. Scott Kraus, VP and Senior Science Advisor, Anderson-Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium

New England Aquarium

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Jon Friskics, App Developer

Matt Tracy, Audio Engineer, University of Central Florida

Center for Research and Education in Arts, Technology, and Entertainment (CREATE), University of Central Florida, College of Arts and Humanities.

Annie Crawley, Filmmaker

Akron Symphony OrchestraAnnie Crawley has worked around the world with cameras in hand, mostly below the surface of our ocean. Born and raised in Chicago, she fell in love with water swimming in our Great Lakes as she did not see the ocean until after graduating from the University of Illinois. After she learned to scuba dive, she took a calculated risk and sold her car to purchase her first underwater camera systems.

As an underwater explorer, she was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2010, is a University of Washington Communication Leadership Fellow, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps trained by Al Gore. She now calls Seattle home and works as a filmmaker, motivational speaker, photographer, writer, and a Master Scuba Diving Instructor. She has created a series of illustrated books and programs to entertain, educate and awe people about life within our ocean.

Annie launched Dive Into Your Imagination to create a community to educate and entertain all ages while connecting them to our environment. She travels with a dive team who explore the sea while scuba diving and documenting their experiences. As a master storyteller, she runs programs teaching the art of photography, video, and workshops.

In June 2018, she earned a master’s of communication degree from the University of Washington Communication Leadership Program. Her mission in life is to help others understand their interconnection with our environment and wants people to have a conversation about the ocean every day.

The Our Ocean and You Campaign has reached tens of thousands of students and continues to create partnerships to promote ocean health. Annie shares the beauty and wonder of exploring our ocean together with three issues: pollution, climate change, and sustainability. Annie wants everyone to join her team and be the voice for our ocean as without us, there is none. You can find out more about Annie at www.AnnieCrawley.com.

Artist’s Statement

Our ocean covers 70 percent of planet Earth. Less explored than outer space, it connects everyone and everything around us. We breathe ocean with every breath we take. Marine plants and phytoplankton produce more than 50 percent of the oxygen our planet needs. It holds 98 percent of our water and feeds our world. Our ocean is the great regulator on our planet, driving weather and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. Trade, culture, science, education, and the arts tie us to our ocean. Our lakes, rivers, and streams are all connected to our ocean. As inhabitants of this planet, we impact the ocean every day but often don’t notice because the changes are hidden just below the surface, a thin blue line of separation. Our ocean is underrepresented in education and misrepresented by the media. We are taught land and sea are separate, yet they are not, they are interconnected and so are we. Whatever we do on land affects our ocean.

The ocean’s story is our story. We depend on a healthy ocean for survival. There is an inextricable link between us and the three biggest man-made threats to our ocean: pollution; climate change; and sustainability. Oceana, Sounds of the Sea started as a collaboration between composer Stella Sung and Music Director Christopher Wilkins. It shines a light on noise pollution in one of the most heart pumping visceral compositions I’ve ever had the pleasure to visualize. When they asked me to lend my eyes to the composition and allow me to create visuals to go along with the flow for a live performance, I dived deep into the opportunity knowing the impact this could have on an audience. It’s my mission in life to inspire others into action about our ocean through multi-media storytelling and music is what leads our emotions. Oceana, Sounds of the Sea reveals several important truths about the ocean including its beauty and fragility. We hope to inspire you to raise your voices for our ocean and our Great Lakes, because without us, they have none.

Film Credits

Underwater Sports Seattle
Manthiri Liveaboard Maldives
Keffler Editing Suites
Eric Michael
Terry Keffler
Dana Wilson
Raechel Romero
Harold Bailey
Kai Widmer
Nico Ponnekanti
Justin VerWeire
Camilo Garcia
Nadia Aly
Harriet Pergande
Gary & Lorraine Keffler
Faith Ortins
Matt Haling & Jodi Hawley
Ha’apai Beach Resort
Steve Woods Photography
Backscatter Underwater Video & Photography
DUI – Diving Unlimited International
Crystal Blue Resort
Mike Bartick
Glazer’s Camera
Dive Into Your Imagination
Light & Motion Dive Lights
Oceanwide Expeditions
Atlantis Dive Resorts & Liveaboard
Lummi Island Wild
Divers Underground
Quino El Guardian
Dora Sandoval

David Arnold, Photographer

Akron Symphony OrchestraDavid Arnold, 70, retired as a staff writer from the Boston Globe in 2003. The Globe library has some 2,000 stories he left behind from beats that included sports, adventure, city news, and the environment. His work took him around the world more than once.

“Then and Now, Changes from Above and Below” is an evolution of a traveling photographic exhibit that toured museums non-stop for five years. A pilot and a scuba diver, Arnold continues to document change by matching older pictures precisely with the same scenes today, be it underwater or from a flying machine. He adamantly believes that global warming is akin to an incoming meteor. If you need to see the flaming tail to confirm the trajectory, you’re in big trouble. 

Arnold and his wife live in Boston’s North End neighborhood where there are approximately 150 Italian restaurants within four blocks of their condominium. He has little incentive to move.

Learn more at his website, doublexposure.net.

“Then and Now: Changes from Above and Below”

“Then and Now: Changes from Above and Below” documents melting glaciers in Alaska and the Alps, and the general demise of hard corals throughout the Caribbean. 

Carbon emissions from fossil fuels creates a thickening invisible quilt over the planet, trapping an ever larger percentage of the sun’s heat that cannot escape. Think of rolling up the car windows on a hot sunny day. The emissions are also altering water chemistry as oceans warm, which partly explains the general demise of hard corals worldwide.   

Copyrighted photographs by the late Dr. Bradford Washburn are used through the gracious permission of the Decaneus Archive, the Washburn family, and Panopticon Gallery.

Several pioneer underwater photographers took the early copyrighted photographs. Arnold determined all the locations and took the matching shots. In their order of appearance:


Heney, AK Bradford Washburn 1937/2006
Tebenkok, AK Bradford Washburn 1937/2007
20-Mile, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2006
Blackstone, AK Bradford Washburn 1937/2006
Doldenhorn, Alps Bradford Washburn 1960/2007
Doldenhorn, West Face, Alps Bradford Washburn 1960/2006
Guyot, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2006
Hugh Milller, AK Bradford Washburn 1940/2005
Matterhorn, Alps Bradford Washburn 1960/2005
Mendenhall, AK Bradford Washburn 1937/2006
No Name, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2005
Nunatak, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2005
Shoup, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2007
Valdez, AK Bradford Washburn 1938/2007


Carysfort Reef, FL Jerry Greenberg 1970/2010
Tobago Paul Humann 1985/2012
St. Croix, USVI John Brooks 1995/2011
Peter Island, BVI Armando Jenik 1989/2011
Rhone Reef, BVI Steve Lucas 1985/2011
Jamaica Jim Porter 1978/2011
Grand Cayman Paul Humann 1978/2011
Bonaire Steve Lucas 1985/2012
Key Biscayne, FL John Brooks 1995/2013
Rhone pillars, BVI Armando Jenik 1989/2011
Rhone Reef BVI Jim Scheiner 2005/2011
Key Largo, FL Bill Harrigan 1980/2010
Carysfort Reef, FL Jerry Greenberg 1970/2010
Jamaica Jim Porter 1978/2011

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