Folks around here like to talk about the wonderful lifestyle we have — the beautiful landscape, the whispering pines, and the abundance of good people.

When you ask them about what there is to do, there’s usually a little pause, and then they might mention the Sunrise Theater, the Sardine Festival, pottery tours, fall festivals, Cameron’s antiques, First Friday music events, high school football or an occasional U.S. Open golf championship. Most people probably would not immediately mention concerts by The Carolina Philharmonic.

But they should. Especially if The Phil’s recent show, the first of a new season, is evidence of what is to come.

A few years ago, I saw my first Carolina Philharmonic concert. It was a twin bill, with a mix of Latin tango music and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.” It was impressive, especially as the organization was getting on its feet and probably running on a shoestring. Right then I became something of a fan, even though you could pack what I know about orchestral music into a flute case.

But the Oct. 11 show was something else entirely. The first works were of George Gershwin’s “Cuban Overture” from 1932. I guess Havana was trendy back then, and this music was certainly fun, in the Latin style. The second passages were from Claude Debussy’s “Le Mer” (1905), a classic piece often heard from intermediate piano players.

But that sheet music is child’s play compared with the intricate piece we heard. Not since first grade, in Mrs. Doby’s class at Albemarle Elementary School, listening to mono records of the Boston Pops playing “Four Seasons” and “The Grand Canyon Suite,” has my imagination soared to greater heights through a piece of music.

There are about 30 little chapters to this three-part movement, each with a different personality. If you have ever felt as one with the ocean, you could draw dancing images from the music in your head.

But the unexpected treat, the knock-you-out surprise of the evening, came during the third segment, when Conductor David Michael Wolff turned his orchestra’s attention to Tchaikovsky’s “Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major” (1878). It seemed like the orchestra reached new heights of precision here. And Wolff, who is a treat to watch because he so clearly loves what he does, was basking in the energy of it.

Wolff’s guest violin soloist, Mayumi Kanagawa, was billed as a rising star, but no one in the audience expected to hear quite the extraordinary brilliance she delivered. No one. It was the first time she’d ever played that piece live with an orchestra. They did it with a single practice run. That night, Maestro Wolff helped uncover a world-class musician.

This is the kind of thing happening right in our town, folks. You just have to be there. Watching the experience unfold, I kept marveling, “So, this is what you get by living here.” It was so much better than I expected, even knowing it would be of high quality.

I grew up listening to the Doors, the Stones, Clapton and the Beatles. I don’t know an allegro from my canzonetta. I thought Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian agent in a James Bond movie. But I’ve reached a new level of appreciation for the art form because of our philharmonic orchestra.

I don’t have to know anything, I just have to listen. They are focused on music education for children, through programs that already reach over 1,000 students per year in local public schools. And they create beautiful music for the public — us. I’m too old to benefit from their first mission, but I embrace the second.

What exactly is cultural art? Is cultural art different from plain old art? I’m not sure I know the answers, but I do know this: The Carolina Philharmonic Orchestra is becoming part of the cultural fabric of Moore County after only five years. This is a better place because of it.

David Michael Wolff’s vision and effort, along with that of the musicians and volunteers who share the vision, deserve support. There are seven more live performances this season. For more info: www.carolinaphil.org.

We like to think we have a special place to live. And I have come to think The Carolina Philharmonic is becoming a special part of it. Treat yourself and a friend. Dare to try something new. Take a leap of faith. Go because it’s a fun experience. Make an evening or a date of it. Just don’t sit there and miss them all. You can’t say you weren’t clued in early.

’Cause this is what you get for living here.

Pat Taylor is advertising director for The Pilot. Contact him at pat@thepilot.com.

(1) comment

Carl Danis

Glad to hear your are expanding your musical horizons. While this is purely an opinion column, you might want to check out another classical venue or two (so many offered in the Sandhills). You state "They are focused on music education for children, through programs that already reach over 1,000 students per year in local public schools." This program through Carnegie Hall (http://www.carnegiehall.org/Education/Link-Up-National-Program/ ) doesn't cost them a red cent yet they have a major fund-raiser to support the program. Where does that "education money" go? Personally, I couldn't sit through a concert knowing that the organization lacks true integrity.

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