Symphony spotlights Tommy Wyche, the Composer

Greenville News Full Article from Greenville News Online

By Paul Hyde: December 21, 2015

Greenville civic leader C. Thomas “Tommy” Wyche was well-known for his passion for conservation.

Not many Greenvillians may know, however, that Wyche, who died this year at the age of 88, was also a pianist and occasional composer.

In January, the Greenville Symphony will present the world premiere of Wyche’s “Moonbeams,” a short lyrical song-without-words in the style of a romantic nocturne.

Edvard Tchivzhel, the Greenville Symphony’s music director, has arranged the piano piece for full orchestra and will conduct the work at the Peace Center.

The Jan. 23-24 Masterworks program, titled “Poetry and Drama of Life,” is dedicated to Wyche.

“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Wyche’s daughter Sally Coenen, speaking about the upcoming performance of “Moonbeams.”

“I actually heard a rehearsal of it in November and it was really powerful,” she said. “I was struck by how thrilled my dad would have been to have heard his piece performed so beautifully.”

Coenen said “Moonbeams,” about five minutes long in its orchestrated version, was composed many years ago.

“We grew up listening to it,” Coenen said. “It goes way back.”

Two popular classical works also are featured on the program: Edvard Grieg’s incidental music to “Peer Gynt” and Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2.

Wyche, who led the Greenville law firm that bears his name for more than 60 years, was the chief architect of the conservation of over 100,000 acres of the South Carolina mountains.

After a trip to California decades ago, Wyche became determined to save the Blue Ridge Escarpment from the development that plagued the hills around Los Angeles, beginning a 40-year conservation journey.

In 1972, Wyche founded Naturaland Trust, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting natural beauty in the Upstate.

Jocassee Gorges, Caesars Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park, the Greenville Watershed and hundreds of privately conserved acres “wouldn’t exist today without dad’s vision, commitment and hard work,” his son Brad Wyche told The News in 2013.

Tommy Wyche also was a principal leader in the City of Greenville’s dramatic transformation into one of the nation’s most livable cities. In the early 1980s, Wyche worked with then-Mayor Max Heller, business leader Buck Mickel and others to launch initiatives that reshaped downtown Greenville.

He helped bring the Hyatt Regency to Main Street, envisioned Falls Park and RiverPlace developments, helped push the city to narrow Main Street from four lanes to two, install new sidewalks and trees and construct a walking bridge across the Reedy River near the historic structure now named the Wyche Pavilion.

But music also was important to Wyche, though he composed original pieces infrequently.

“He just really loved classical music and played the piano every single day,” Coenen said. “He’d practice before he’d go to work. Music was a big part of his life.”

Wyche’s colleague, attorney Henry L. Parr Jr., brought the idea of performing “Moonbeams” to Tchivzhel, who readily accepted, Coenen said. Parr is also a board member of the Greenville Symphony.

Wyche and his wife Harriet were loyal supporters of the Greenville Symphony, from its first concert in 1948 until their deaths. The Jan. 23 performance marks the one-year anniversary of Wyche’s death in 2015.

Greenville News arts writer Paul Hyde will present a free pre-concert talk one hour before each performance.