Monday, December 19, 2011

Messiah Selections on YouTube

The Messiah YouTubes are up thanks to Laurel Dodgion.  Recordings by Steve Swift and his team.

Here are the links:

Rejoice Greatly:

Comfort Ye:

He Was Despised:

For CDs ($15) or DVDs ($25) send check to
P.O. Box 312
Cedar City, UT  84721

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas and End of Year Donations


Orchestra of Southern Utah

P.O Box 312, Cedar City, UT   84721-0312

Dec. 19, 2011
Dear Friends,
Greetings!  We thank you for supporting the music we love to play.  We ask you to give an end-of-the-year gift to the Orchestra of Southern Utah because your participation is vital to our continued success.
So far this season we have celebrated musical theater with over 300 musicians on stage in conjunction with the Chorale and featuring high school groups from Parowan, Canyon View, and Cedar High.  In November we were thrilled to present the much-requested Pines of Rome and to host Chinese composer Zhou Hong and his original work.  Our 71st Cedar City Messiah concerts on had full houses.  Messiah musicians and patrons donated 367 pounds of canned food to Iron County Care and Share.  After the holidays we are excited about our upcoming Children’s Jubilee with outreach assemblies reaching 3,500 students, a performance with featured guest soloist Dr. Kirill Gliadkovsky, and our successful youth concerto series in the spring.
Please remember, that your gifts make it all possible.  The Orchestra of Southern Utah is a non-profit organization that thrives due to outstanding community and individual supporters.  Please know that we appreciate your assistance and any suggestions you have to make OSU the best it can be.
Ticket sales have been steady, but for orchestras like ours, donations are far more important and truly make it possible to maintain the quality that our community expects from arts groups.  Your gifts are, quite literally, our life blood.  December is a particularly good time to give because your charitable contribution is fully tax deductible if received by Dec. 31.  Also, donations can be made in the name of a friend or family member as a unique and meaningful gift option for holiday giving.  If you prefer to pay by credit card, we accept all major credit cards online on our website on the “donor” tab.  From all of the staff and musicians, thank you for your holiday generosity.
Pete Akins
OSU President

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Mail to: Orchestra of Southern Utah, P.O. Box 312, Cedar City, UT  84721-0312

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Timeless Christmas Celebration

By Bryce Christensen
“The earth has grown old with its burden of care,” wrote the 19th-century hymnist Phillips Brooks. “But at Christmas it always is young, / The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair /And its soul full of music breaks the air, /When the song of angels is sung.”  Those who gathered at the Heritage Center on the nights of December 11th and 12th for the Orchestra of Southern Utah’s annual performance of Handel’s Messiah experienced the miracle of which Brooks wrote, as the angelic songs of this Christmas classic swept away the years, renewing in heart and spirit all those in attendance.
It was, of course, entirely appropriate that OSU President Akins opened the evening by identifying this year’s performance as the 71st in a series going back to the year before Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II.  Appropriate, too, was the recognition of OSU violinist June Thorley as one of the participants (then just a child) in the 1940 inaugural of what has become one of Cedar City’s most beloved holiday traditions.  But from the stirring first notes of the Overture to the regal harmonies of the final “Worthy is the Lamb that Was Slain,” the decades melted away.  The Christmas “soul full of music break[ing] the air” transported the audience into a realm beyond time, beyond 1940, beyond 1743, when the oratorio’s brilliant “Hallelujah!” chorus brought George II to his feet in London, and even beyond the 1742 premiere in Dublin, where one reviewer wrote ecstatically, “Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight [the oratorio] afforded to the admiring and crowded Audience.”  As it resounded with the sacred meanings of ancient scripture, the oratorio slipped beyond the bounds of human years and centuries, drawing enraptured listeners into the divinely timeless. 
Once again delighting Cedar City listeners--who have come to cherish his exceptional gifts--OSU director Xun Sun led the talented instrumentalists under his baton with great passion, drawing from them a truly marvelous outpouring of celebratory music.  The polished skills of these instrumentalists were memorably evident in the strains of the opening Overture and the later Pastoral Symphony halfway through the oratorio.  But the thrill for listeners greatly intensified when the OSU instrumentalists were joined by the gifted chorus of vocalists, recruited and trained by choral director Adrianne J. Tawa. 
This thrill penetrated listeners’ hearts with particular power as more than 150 voices joined in the signature choruses of this timeless masterpiece.  Though the inevitable abridgement of Handel’s very long original work meant that listeners had to rely on their memory of past performances of some choruses, (such as “Since by Man Came Death”), the evening’s performance included truly breathtaking renditions of “And the Glory of the Lord,” “O Thou That Tellest,” “For Unto Us a Child is Born,” “Glory to God,” “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates,” and the absolutely essential “Hallelujah!” and “Worthy is the Lamb That Was Slain.”  Though all of these choruses lifted listeners into a heavenly joy, “For Unto Us a Child is Born” merits particular praise for its stunning fusion of exultant voices, soaring strings, luminous brass, and thunderous timpani.  What was especially impressive in this number—as in the other choruses—was the way in which the scores of singers under Tawa’s direction retained in their loudest notes the sublimity of worship.
The sublimity permeating the choruses also suffused the fifteen solos, performed by nine soloists.  Performing seven of the solos, alto Elise Read demonstrated remarkable versatility in rendering with perfect intonation and feeling numbers as different as the pleading “Comfort Ye My People,” the monitory “Thus Saith the Lord,” and the evocative “Behold, I Tell You a Mystery.”  Likewise delivering sublime renditions of Handel’s score was soprano Jackie Jackson, whose “Every Valley Shall be Exalted” captured the cadence of prophetic rapture, and alto Mary Fox, whose “O Thou That Tellest” set the triumphant tone for the irresistible chorus that joined her.  Soprano Geneil Perkins handled the difficult “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion” with poise and seemingly effortless grace, and alto Taliah Johnson rendered “He Was Despised” with poignantly plaintive pathos.   Soprano Janese Shaw brought to her “I Know that My Redeemer Liveth” a piercing fervor, and Kim Padilla carried her “If God Be For Us” to a pitch of devout jubilation. 
As the only two male soloists for the evening, tenor Alex Byers delivered the probing interrogatives of “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?” with tones of insistent majesty, while bass Gregg Watts sounded the depths with moving profundity in a vocal rendition of “The Trumpet Shall Sound” that perfectly complemented Doug Harris’s radiant trumpet solo in the same number.
In the relative paucity of male soloists and in the decided predominance of female voices in the chorus as a whole, listeners could see something of the challenge Tawa faces in recruiting male voices for this annual performance.   Her resourceful flexibility in dealing with this challenge is evident not only in her surprisingly effective use of a female voice to sing a number typically assigned to a bass soloist (“Thus Saith the Lord”) but also in her even more surprising success in maintaining balance in the superb choruses.  Though Tawa would no doubt be the first to acknowledge that she could use more male singers, she deserves special recognition for so artfully directing the talented ensemble of singers available to her. 
The accomplishment of Tawa, of Sun, of the soloists, of the choir as a whole, and of the orchestra as a whole indeed richly merited the sustained standing ovations at the close of the two nights’ performances, ovations from listeners persuaded that in this year’s Messiah they had heard a “song of angels” that expunged all world-weariness and so renewed the Christmas marvel that makes the world celestially new again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

  • Patron comments we've received on last night's performance:

    I attended last night's performance and commend you and the entire group for a most moving performance. Last night the strings were synchronized, in tune, and very effective. This can only be attributed to your (Xun's) leadership and guidance. Well done!

    Of the soloists, I particularly enjoyed alto Taliah Johnson. Although I have listened to No 23 for years, last night was the first time that I realized the string counterpoint as weeping. The recitative soloist Elise Read was also effective. I found that the semi-chorus on the side of the theatre for No 33 and No 44 was an excellent concept and gave a stereo effect.

    Best regards (and again, congratulations on an excellent performance.
  • More comments on Sunday's performance:

    Once again the OSU outdid itself with an inspiring and beautiful rendition of the Messiah. I think the chorus was the best I've heard. Of course the orchestra is always good. I thought Xun was going to jump in the air at times. I don't think I ever remember seeing such a well dressed group of singers.

    I hope it goes well tonight and that the audience should not clap between numbers. I don't think people noticed it in their programs. I loved what he said about the 71st performance and when June Thorley started playing with the orchestra - quite a history.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Official announcements today for Challenge America Grants:

Orchestra of Southern Utah 
Cedar City, UT
To support Capturing the Caribbean, a main stage performance, youth concert, and series of assemblies in area elementary schools for Feb. 2013.

(The only Utah orchestra receiving a Challenge America NEA grant this year.  Thanks to Bridget Lee for grant writing and all the people involved in helping the Orchestra.)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fiddling Fun in the Fall

Southern Utah fiddle group Peter Street flash mobbed the Southern Utah University Bread and Soup Nite on November 7, 2011.  Thanks to the musicians, SUU, and Laurel Dodgion for heading up filming and production.  Lindsay Szczesny leads off the festivities with Amanda Clark; Kim and Caroline Simmerman; Catherine, Christiania and Kirsten Hofeling; Jane, Mary and Ruth Hailstone; Jenni Rock, and Carol Fife.

 This group performed in our fall recital series and performs for other community events.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

       Great Friday for the orchestra.  Bridget received notification that we will be getting an NEA grant for Feb. 2013 for our "Capturing the Caribbean" pirate adventure through music with steel drums.  Too much fun.
      The League of American Orchestras invited us to send a representative to their Dallas convention to share our use of hands-on science as a complement to the music in our family Jubilees.
      We're always happy to get national recognition for our efforts.  Thanks to all involved.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fall in Southern Utah with Steve Downs

Thanks to Steve Downs and his recital performance for the music and to all the photographers who helped with this project, as well as Laurel Dodgion for producing the video.

Thursday, December 1, 2011
The "Ritual"  by Chinese composer Zhou Hong is now online.  Thanks to Steve Swift and his team for the recording.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Handel’s Messiah: the Tradition of Music Continues

The Orchestra of Southern Utah and Southern Utah Chorale performs their 71th concert of Handel’s Messiah Concert on Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th at 7:30 pm in the Heritage Center (105 North 100 East) in Cedar City.  This concert is presented FREE to the public thanks to the generous sponsorships of State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group. 

This year the Orchestra is hosting a food drive during the Messiah Concerts.  All food will be donated to the Iron County Care & Share.  “It’s tragic that in a society with such abundance our benevolence-oriented organizations struggle,” commented OSU President Pete Akins.  “This year we have an opportunity to work together in cooperation with Care & Share.  Will you help us stock their shelves?”   Akins and the Orchestra suggest audience members donate one can of food per person to help our neighbors during this festival season.

The Orchestra is also hosting a raffle this year.  The prize package is valued at over $150 and includes a massage gift certificate, two sets of tickets for the remainder of the OSU season, The Planets Collector’s Edition DVD, a “Music Inspired by William Shakespeare” Concert CD, a Baby Ears CD, a Matrix MR-500 Quartz Metronome, and other prizes.  Raffle tickets are $5 each.

The Messiah Concert is conducted by OSU Conductor and Music Director Xun Sun.  The Chorale is under the direction of Adrianne J. Tawa.  Soloists include Elise Reed, Jackie Jackson, Alex Byers, Mary Fox, Taliah Johnson, Janise Shaw, Greg Watts, Geneil Perkins, and Kim Padilla.  

Due to the length of the Messiah, only portions of the oratorio to be performed.  This year’s pieces include the Overture, “O thou that tallest good tidings,” “For unto us,” “Glory to God,” Lift up your heads,” “Hallelujah,” and “Worthy is the Lamb.”

George Frideric Handel composed the Messiah in 1741, completing the masterpiece in an astonishing 24 days, drawing inspiration from a libretto by Charles Jennings as well as Isaiah and Job in the Old Testament and Luke, Matthew, John, First Corinthians, and Revelation in the New Testament.  The well-known and ever popular “Hallelujah” chorus, however, is taken from Revelation. 

The now famous oratorio was first performed for Easter in 1742.  It was not performed in the winter until after Handel’s death in 1759.  Since then, Messiah has become an integral part of the holiday season all over the world. It has been performed literally countless times in December, though portions of the work are sometimes performed at Easter.

The Messiah Concert is performed Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th. Seating is on a first come, first choose basis. Arrive early for best seating.  Doors open at 6:45 pm.  No tickets are needed as concert is free.  OSU suggests concert goers bring one can of food per person for the Iron County Care and Share.

Lobby music starts at 6:45 with the Southern Utah String Quintet on Sunday evening and the Accidental 5 Brass Quintet on Monday evening.

OSU welcomes all children over the age of six with adult supervision.  OSU requests that babies and children less than six years old not attend as the concerts are recorded.

For more information, please visit or call Sara Penny at (435) 586-2286.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting in the Mood for our 71st Cedar City "Messiah" Performance

Thanks to Diane Strachan for finding this:

This video from the small Yupiq Eskimo Village of Quinhagak, Alaska,
was a school computer project intended for the other Yupiq villages in the
area. Much to the villagers' shock, over a half million people have viewed

For your turn to view, Click: HERE

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Review of Nov. 2011 concert

Tones of 21st-Cenutry Hope
By Bryce Christensen
Commenting on his Thus Sprach Zarathustra, composed at the tail end of the 19th century, the young Richard Strauss declared it a work of "symphonic optimism . . . dedicated to the 20th century."  But as the delighted audience who gathered at the Heritage Center on November 17th can attest, the symphonic optimism of this luminous work still glows 11 years into the 21st century.  As the opening number of the Orchestra of Southern Utah’s “World Journey” concert, Strauss’s brilliant number set a tone of irrepressible hopefulness for an exuberant concert. 
From the first thrumming throbs of Thus Sprach Zarathustra , the Orchestra of Southern Utah gave listeners every reason for musical optimism.  And that optimism intensified as radiant trumpet notes pierced the low vibrato of the strings, hailing the first beams of the Sunrise that Strauss celebrated in this opening movement of his famous composition.  And though this was the only movement of the Strauss work that OSU performed for this concert, it served perfectly to set the mood for the World Journey that the ensemble took as its concert theme.
Having opened with the first morning rays of light falling on Stauss’s Germany, the orchestra took its World Journey south to Rome, there to savor the harmonies of Respighi’s Pines of Rome.   A marvelously textured work, Pines transported the audience to the groves of Italy’s greatest city, allowing listeners first to feel the sprightly breezes that sway pine boughs in the city’s Villa Borghese gardens, then to ponder the deep solemnities of a somber Roman catacomb, only to move on to the exhilarating heights of the Janiculum.  Opening panoramic views from these heights, a series of gifted soloists—piano, clarinet, trumpet, oboe, and viola—allowed the audience to soar across time and space as they contemplated the grandeur of the imperial center of antiquity from a range of tonal perspectives.  Though all of the solos rewarded attentive listening, moving seamlessly from passages of sparkling scintillation to passages of sweet languor, the trumpet solo deserves particular mention for its surprisingly poignant and reflective tenor, a tenor that carried the audience well beyond the range usually associated with an instrument often regarded as insistently loud and martial.  To be sure, martial notes did fill the concert hall when the orchestra segued into the final movement of Pines, a movement resounding with the cadence of Roman legionnaires entering the city in triumph.  As the timpani marked out the firm stamp of the soldiers’ march, the entire orchestra—strings, winds, and brass—joined in the victorious final parade, carrying the audience with them in their irresistible progress down the Appian Way.
Leading the orchestra in its masterful performance of the evening’s opening numbers, conductor Xun Sun returned to the podium after an extended leave of absence, inspiring musicians and listeners alike with his interpretive passion.  Sun’s deep engagement with the music  were much in evidence this night, an engagement that was amplified by Sun’s inclusion of guest musicians in the opening two selections of more than two dozen guest musicians from Southern Utah University’s Symphony Orchestra.  Not only did the presence of these guest musicians deliver the immediate benefit of a marvelously  full orchestral sound, but that presence promised the very real possibility of some of these talented young musicians becoming long-term members of OSU in the years ahead.
Though the guest musicians left the stage at intermission, Sun and the OSU still commanded ample musical resources for carrying on their World Journey after the interval.  Indeed, with Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony (Symphony #41 in C major), the OSU converted their World Journey into a galactic Worlds journey, daring to leave behind the terrestrial orb to visit a far-distant planet dominating the earth’s night sky on the very night that OSU performed this number.  Praised by Sir George Grove as “the greatest orchestral work of the world which preceded the French Revolution,” this symphony does radiate a heavenly 18th-century grace.  Opening with a movement that counterpoises measures of celestial delicacy with measures taut with frenetic striving, the symphony then transitioned into a second movement pulsing with the energy of the sarabande’s dance rhythms.  Omitting the symphony’s third movement, the orchestra concluded with the final movement’s eruption of musical joy—manifest in the fanfare of brass playing off the sonorous energies of the strings and winds.
 OSU may have returned to the home planet for the final number, but they returned—in keeping with the World Journey theme—very far from home, landing in China for the stunning concluding number, “Ritual ShenNong,” truly a tour de force.   As an impressive indication of Xun Sun’s musical connections in his homeland, the composer of this number—Zhou Hong—was in attendance for the performance of his composition, coming to the stage to be recognized by appreciative OSU officers and to be named an Honorary Citizen of Cedar City by Mayor Joe Burgess.  Zhou Hong in turn presented his hosts with a gift of beautiful Chinese china.  But his real gift to all in attendance was his music, music so memorably beautiful that it utterly mesmerized listeners.  The powerful percussive cannonade of timpani  in the opening of this number seemed to break open the very well-springs of harmonic energy,  setting free  a majestic  river of orchestral power.  That power swelled into a magnificent torrent, probing, ever-probing, the banks through which it flowed.  The power of that torrent grew even greater when the instrumentalists of the orchestra were joined by the vocalists of the Southern Utah Chorale.  Though few in the audience could understand the Mandarin words they sang, all could feel their pleading, even prayerful, intensity, particularly when soloist Wayne Reynolds distilled that intensity into one compelling and stirring voice. 
As the last note of “Ritual ShenNong” died away, Sun turned on his podium to again recognize the composer, Zhou Hong, seated in an audience that immediately rose to its feel in grateful applause for his music—and for the entire evening’s music.  For this was a night that, from beginning to end, gave appreciative Cedar City listeners reason to hope for a 21st century laden with exquisite orchestral music. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

World Journey tomorrow!

Please join us for an unforgettable performance tomorrow night at 7:30 in the Heritage Center.