WVIA Radio Announces Joint Celebration of 50th Anniversary

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WVIA Radio and The Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic announce a joint celebration of their respective 50th anniversaries. The Philharmonic and WVIA will mark the occasion by collectively commissioning and presenting the world-premiere of Palma, a fable for narrator, young string players, young chorus, and symphonic orchestra with music by Paul Salerni and text by Dana Gioia. The event will take place at the Scranton Cultural Center in November 2023.

Just as the Philharmonic commemorates its continued mission to present live symphonic performances and music education through multiple concert series and educational outreach programs such as Music in our Schools, Young People’s Concerts, and the NEPP Mentoring Program, WVIA is pleased to present this piece as a salute to its beloved WVIA Radio and its hosts. Erika Funke, Lisa Mazzarella, George Graham, Larry Vojtko and Paul Lazar collectively immerse our region in classical, jazz, and opera programming throughout the broadcast week along with Morning Edition each weekday, All Things Considered, and Fresh Air in the afternoon, and many favorite weekend programs such as Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and WVIA’s own WVIA News and Keystone Edition.

Dr. Paul Salerni, NEH Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and Professor of Music at Lehigh University, director of the Lehigh University Very Modern Ensemble, and founder and Artistic Director of the Monocacy Chamber Orchestra will collaborate with Dana Gioia, a former Poet Laureate of California and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Salerni and Gioia are no strangers to collaboration. Salerni’s one-act opera Tony Caruso’s Final Broadcast, with a libretto by Dana Gioia, won the National Opera Association’s Chamber Opera competition. Haunted, a one-act ballet opera composed by Salerni, with a libretto by Dana Gioia, is adapted from Gioia’s poem of the same name.

Salerni, a lover of Italian fables, has written compositions in the past based upon two of his favorites: The Big Sword and The Little Broom and The Old Witch and the New Moon. This newly commissioned selection completes the trilogy of fable-inspired works. The work will feature the main character, Palma, who wrestles with the conflicting interests of toiling for basic survival and her desire to make music with a cherished violin. Palma is named after Salerni’s ninety-four-year-old mother who was born in Carbondale.

Featuring the NEPA Philharmonic conducted by Mélisse Brunet, this special performance will continue WVIA’s tradition of educating young people and the Philharmonic’s tradition of nurturing young players in their musical gifts. The performance will include the participation of talented local children from the Choral Society of Northeastern Pennsylvania and a school string ensemble from the Abington Heights School District. Enthusiasts of Salerni’s work note that while his compositions are challenging for the most talented of professional instrumentalists, they deftly engage audiences of all ages. As such, this debut performance narrated by WVIA’s own Erika Funke is destined to be a cherished highlight for our Pennsylvania communities.

This performance will be the final concert Mélisse Brunet will direct as the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic’s Music Director. Following the program, there will be a reception to thank Mélisse for her outstanding leadership and extend our warmest wishes for a brilliant career.