JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) – For this year’s 20th anniversary of September 11th, the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra (JSO) will hold two special events at the Flight 93 National Memorial that they have diligently put together.
The JSO collaborated with non-profit, Laurel Arts for this year’s event. On Friday, they will perform live during the Luminaria Ceremony, which starts at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, they will perform an hour-long Memorial Tribute Concert, Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 “From the New World,” at the Memorial Plaza after 3 p.m.
More information on the events can be found on Flight 93 National Memorial’s website.
Choosing an original work to compose a piece of music to speak directly to the people of Somerset, was no easy task.
Composer and violinist, Tommy Dougherty, a Pittsburgh native, was chosen unanimously by a panel of 3 composers for the area. The orchestra invited composers from across the country to apply for the undertaking.
Dougherty currently serves as Acting Section Violin with the San Diego Symphony and has
performed with the Pacific Symphony, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra in Los Angeles and Kinetic in
He received his Bachelor’s degrees in both composition and violin performance from the Eastman
School of Music and his Master of Music degree in composition from the Shepherd School of Music at
Growing up in Western Pennsylvania, Tommy participated in Mt. Lebanon School District music programs, the Symphonette, Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Youth Symphony Orchestra.
He has visited the Flight 93 Memorial to gain knowledge of the site and connect with the Somerset community before composing original work for this year’s concert.
“To write a piece of music, to have a piece of music, that’s written specifically for this occasion and for this community, I know is going to resonate and speak to the people here in a really beautiful way,” JSO Music Director James Blachly said.
Blachly believes music, for many, is a way of healing. He said in dark times, music can be a form of therapy for grieving individuals.
“I think music has a way of speaking to us and saying things that words cannot,” he said. “It’s a way of coming home and of comforting us in a terribly difficult time, while also lifting us up and honoring what this country is and can be.”
For the JSO, planning an event like this took great preparation. From selecting a composer, to selecting which orchestra members would perform, to selecting the layout of the venue – the symphony took pride in putting on this concert.
“We’ve been planning for this for years,” Blachly said. “Really for about five years, we’ve been preparing for this 20th anniversary because we knew it would be a significant occasion.”
Being able to perform is a privilege for Blachly and the rest of the symphony members. With the Flight 93 National Memorial in their backyard, he says they felt obligated to perform music that would resonate with the Somerset community.
“To be performing is a great honor for us and as the local orchestra here, we feel like it’s our responsibility to share music with people in a way that helps commemorate and reflect on this moment,” he said.