It’s the end of era. The South Shore Symphony’s distinguished music director and conductor Scott Jackson Wiley will pass on his baton after the orchestra’s performance at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre on Sunday.
The annual concert at the majestic church is a fitting finale to Wiley’s 25-year tenure. The full orchestra — all 80 musicians — demonstrate the breadth and depth of their musicianship performing Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” The Diocesan Choir with guest soloists — along with organist Michael Bauer, director of music at St. Agnes — also participate. The vast work, lasting nearly 90 minutes, commands a complete orchestra, with extra brass, choir, soprano and contralto soloists.
“This is the third time in 25 years that we’ve played it,” says principal cellist Wayne Lipton, who is delighted the orchestra has another opportunity to perform Mahler’s masterpiece with Wiley at the podium.
“It’s an overwhelming experience with the sound of so many musicians. The music is just incredible,” he says. “It’s a very dramatic piece. Each time we do it, the audience jumps to their feet at the end.”
He expects a similar reaction yet again.
“The organ in the last movement is very powerful. Plus, we have a huge amount of brass, five trumpets and 11 or 12 French horns. So that’s a lot of firepower, plus two harps and the organ. You add it all together and it’s a powerful statement. If I were going out as a conductor, this is the piece I’d want to conduct. We’re so pleased to play it as his swan song.”
From their roots in the Five Towns back in 1983, the South Shore Symphony has grown and flourished as a regional orchestra of note. For much of that time, Lipton — as the orchestra’s president since 1991 — and Wiley, who came on board in 1997, have been a forceful presence in guiding the orchestra through its many phases of growth.
“When Scott arrived, we were playing at South Shore Middle School. Since then, we’ve grown exponentially,” Lipton says. “For me, I’ve learned the orchestral repertoire as principal cellist. He took his time with us and challenged us. One of his greatest attributes is as a teacher.” (Wiley taught at Mannes College and as a diction coach in Italian, French, Spanish and Catalan, among his other roles).
The orchestra’s move to the then-newly opened Madison Theatre on the Molloy University campus in 2012 brought Wiley and his orchestra to greater prominence. New collaborations included a yearly performance of “The Nutcracker” with local dance company, Leggz Ltd. Dance. There was also opera and musical productions with University’s CAP21 theatre arts students, and special guests.
“It’s been a long and successful trip with Scott,” Lipton adds. “I’m thrilled to have been a part of his life all these years.”
As for Wiley, an accomplished French hornist who also plays the violin, the piano, and the flamenco guitar, it’s a time of transition. But not certainly not “retirement,” in the traditional sense.
“I’m proud to have been the music director of the South Shore Symphony for these past 25 years and to be named its Conductor Laureate,” Wiley says. “It’s been immensely rewarding to have worked in close collaboration with Wayne Lipton, an important leader in the community. Through the orchestra’s residency at the Madison Theatre and under its director Angelo Fraboni, we have established an enduring bond with Molloy University, and have forged extraordinary musical partnerships.
“I am also proud as well to have founded and directed Long Island Lyric Opera, under the sponsorship of Marty Bevilaqua, and to have brought operatic masterpieces by Mozart, Bizet and Puccini to the Madison Theatre. A home for all serious orchestral musicians, I am particularly pleased that the South Shore Symphony continues to draw an ever-increasing number of its players from the ranks of the gifted and dedicated music teachers of Long Island, who are the true stewards of music in the community.
“I’m honored to pass the baton to maestro Adam Glaser, of Hofstra University and the Juilliard School, and I look forward greatly to following the orchestra under his leadership.”
Wiley will remain active as music director of the Centre Symphony Orchestra in Manhattan and as a guest conductor. He will also continue as a conducting teacher and coach, and with his own studies.
His musical journey continues, as it surely does for the South Shore Symphony. “It’s been a wonderful year,” Lipton adds. “This the best orchestra we’ve ever had and a nice way to end our run with Scott. We’re a wonderful family of people creating together and there’s much more to come.”