The double bass is the biggest bowed string instrument in the symphony orchestra, but, “It doesn’t necessarily have a great, big sound,” says Mississippi Symphony Orchestra principal bass Susan Landry.
It’s stealthier than that, with a low pitch that undergirds everything else. “You feel it more than you hear it,” Landry says. “If it’s not there, you’re like, ‘How come it sounds so shallow here? What’s missing?’ and what’s missing is the bass.
“But, it isn’t something that necessarily sticks out and says, ‘I’m bold. I’m here.’” Till now, when it grabs the spotlight.
Landry will premiere the bass concerto “One More Day” by Mississippi composer Ben Williams, at the chamber concert March 23 in Millsaps College’s Ford Academic Complex. MSO maestro Crafton Beck wanted the concerto in this venue, she says, “because the bass would sound better in here … it rings.”
Landry started on the violin at age 8 in a school music program in Washington, D.C., and also got involved in a youth orchestra program early on. Two older sisters also played string instruments. One played the viola, and another had switched to the cello because of scoliosis.
“So, I had this idea that you didn’t have to play the violin. You could switch, because my sister had already done it.” Looking ahead to junior high, she saw a lot of good violin players on the horizon. Her thinking: “Everybody plays the violin and I don’t want to be like everybody else.” She didn’t want to play anything her sisters already played, either.
Playing the bass would be cool, Landry thought, so she asked her mom. Landry is the youngest of nine children. Her mom had plenty of experience with kids’ wishes that didn’t stick. “She’s like, ‘It’s so big,’ and ‘You won’t want to carry it around.’
“And I said, ‘Oh, I’ll never complain and I’ll always be responsible!’ And, finally, she let me do it. And, I can say I never complained and I always was responsible.” Once, as a teenager, she let somebody else carry it, and it made her so nervous she vowed never again.
“In fact, my husband will say that I wouldn’t let him touch it for a long time, because it was my baby.”
It’s a big baby, sure — taller than she is at about 6 feet. She doesn’t know how much it weighs. “It’s really kind of funny, though. You get used to whatever you do.” So, hauling it around? No big deal. But add another folder of music in that case and, “Ugh, it’s a lot heavier today!”
Spring Delight Concert
3.23.19 / Millsaps College Ford Academic Complex / 7:30 pm / Jackson, MS
Igor Stravinsky, "Pulcinella"
Ben Williams, [world premiere] "One More Day" Susan Landry, MSO principal bass
Johann Sebastian Bach, Ricercare from "Musical Offering"
Franz Schubert, "Symphony No. 5" in B-flat Major, D. 485
Tickets $22: buy here >
Students tickets only $5