Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bach & Bruckner Concert Review

Back to School With OSU
By Bryce Christensen
With its first concert of the 2012-13 season, the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) brought listeners back to school.  But with a program culminating in Symphony No. 8 by Anton Bruckner, it was an excitingly new school that welcomed the audience gathered at the Heritage Center on September 27th.  For Bruckner was a daringly innovative composer.  .In the opinion of leading musicologists, he “alone succeeded in creating a new school of symphonic writing” by giving the world a “new and monumental type of symphonic organism  . . . something elemental and metaphysical.” 
But in the first concert of its ’12-’13 Soundscapes series, OSU delivered a concert delivering lessons from the best of the old school and the best of the new.  So before bringing its listeners to the revolutionary new school of the Brucknerian symphony, OSU carried them along a delightful musical road with two refreshing stops at impressive harmonic edifices erected by that old-school Baroque schoolmaster Johann Sebastian Bach.
As the first of these stops, Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in C minor for Two Pianos showcased the talents of guest soloists Ericka Dobson at one keyboard and of OSU Assistant Conductor Gerald Rheault at the other.  In fact, Rheault carried the double role of piano soloist and orchestra director, adroitly leading OSU’s string section from his piano bench. Though not new, the musical lessons in this first concert schoolroom were rendered with grace and skill.  From the spritely yet elegant notes of the opening movement, to the stately and regally cadenced measures of the second movement, to the fervent heat of the kinetic third movement, conductor, soloists, and orchestra reminded listeners of just how much an 18th-century genius can still teach the 21st century about harmonic beauty. 
Years of advanced study and concert experience were evident in Rheult’s impressive dual performance as piano soloist and conductor of the evening’s first number.  Perhaps more surprising was the poised and memorable performance of Dobson as the second piano soloist.  Though just an undergraduate at SUU, Dobson performed with the aplomb and self-possession of a mature and older musical artist.
For the second number on the evening’s program—Bach’s Cantata 196—the OSU strings were joined by a choir under the direction of Adrianne Tawa and James Harrison.  Opening with a Baroque richness redolent of the opulent courts of 18th-century royalty, the strings were then joined by the resonant and well-trained voices of the choir, singing with a devotional intensity suggestive not so much of the palatial courts of the Enlightenment as of the magnificent cathedrals of Europe’s high medieval era.  As the soprano soloist for the Aria, Sara Guttenberg sang a stream of liquid gold, her soaring voice an irresistible current of vocal joy.
Melding their voices in the darker-toned Duetto, the tenor Lawrnce Johnson and the baritone Alex Byers together wove a textured fabric of soul-probing striving.  Familiar to Cedar City music-lovers for his strong solos over the years in the Messiah, Johnson met and exceeded the high expectations he has created by his past performances.  But as a gifted young voice fully able to complement the much more seasoned Johnson, Byers identified himself as a rising star in Cedar City’s musical skies.
In the final section of the Cantata, the combined voices of the full chorus swelled in a jubilant uprising of devout passion, point and counterpoint merging in a brilliant tapestry of worshipful complexity.
After the intermission, having twice visited the venerable schoolroom maintained by Bach, OSU was ready for its marvelously new-school destination:  the Finale of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8.   Even in this excerpt from the complete Symphony, listeners thrilled to the bold originality of Bruckner’s symphonic architecture, an architecture that frequently shifts in vertiginous ways. 
Taut with tension in its opening notes, the Finale transitions unpredictably—now reflectively tranquil, now morosely brooding, now martially combative, now angelically celestial, now infernally fiery, and now coolly quiescent. To meet the challenge of this daunting number, the full OSU orchestra added the talents of the Symphony Orchestra of Southern Utah.   Some of the abrupt musical transitions made unusual demands on listeners.  But it is a high tribute to the gifts of OSU conductor and director Xun Sun that he drew from the combined orchestras a sustained interpretive sensitivity through all of the diverse moods of this difficult masterpiece.  Whether in pacific calm or turbulent kineticism, conductor and orchestras delivered musicianship of the highest order.  Under Sun’s ardent baton, strings, winds, brass, and percussion all met the demanding test that Bruckner set before them, and did so with praiseworthy distinction.
Under a musical spell that persisted after the last round of applause had died away, the audience for this first OSU concert of the season left the concert hall deeply grateful for the opportunity to be back at school under the tutelage of such inspiring musical masters. Lessons as musically rewarding as the ones OSU delivered in this concert indeed left listeners counting the days until OSU class is back in session in November, when Bach, Beethoven, and Strauss will set the curriculum.   

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Handel’s Messiah Solo Auditions and Rehearsals Announced

            Solo auditions for the Orchestra of Southern Utah and Southern Utah Chorale’s 72nd Handel’s Messiah Concert will be held Saturday, October 13th from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon at the SUU Music Building, Room 206.  Please contact Dr. Kevin Baker at 865-8380 or to schedule an audition time.
            Chorale rehearsals for the performance Sunday, October 28th from 7:00-9:00 pm at the LDS Church located at 256 South 900 West in Cedar City.  Community members are invited to join the Chorale.  The Chorale especially needs more male voices.  Chorale members do not need to audition, but should be able to commit to attending all rehearsals.
            The Chorale will rehearse October 28, November 4, November 11, November 18, November 29 and December 2.  Dress rehearsals will be held with the Orchestra on December 6th and 8th in the Heritage Center.  Please bring your own score to rehearsals.  Scores are available at Cedar Music Store and Studio, 602 South Main Street in Cedar City.
“Due to health issues Adrianne will be unable to direct Messiah this season.  We want to wish her a speedy recovery and look forward to her return next season,” stated OSU President Harold Shirley.
“We are pleased to announce,” Shirley continued, “that Dr. Kevin Baker has agreed to conduct the Chorale for our 72nd Messiah.”  Baker serves as Director of Chorale Activities at SUU.  He directs the SUU Concert Choir and Opus. He also teaches choral conducting, choral techniques and studio voice.
            The Messiah concert will be performed Sunday, December 11th and Monday, December 12th at the Heritage Centre.  The concert is a free gift to the community thanks to sponsorship from State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group.  The Orchestra musicians and Chorale members donate their time to make this annual performance possible. 


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Calling For Submissions

Do you love the Orchestra of Southern Utah?  Do you have a story relating to our group or to Cedar City music history?   Do you know some interesting facts about a composer or piece of music we have used?  If so, we are pleased to announce that we are now accepting short blog posts by guest authors.  Please send any submissions to  Happy writing!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bach and Bruckner

            The Orchestra of Southern Utah opens their 2012-2013 Concert Season: Soundscapes with an evening of Bach and Bruckner on Thursday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m.  These celebrities of Classical Music have their works featured by the Orchestra, guest pianists, and the Southern Utah Chorale.

The Orchestra welcomes featured artists Gerald Rheault and Erika Dobson, who perform Bach’s Concerto No. 1 in C minor for 2 Pianos. 

            Rheault is the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s Greenshow Music Director and Associate Conductor.  He plays keyboard in the Les Miserables pit orchestra.  He serves as Assistant Conductor for OSU.  Rheault also currently holds the position of SUU College of Visual and Performing Arts Staff Music Director, Conductor and Accompanist.

            Dobson is a student at SUU majoring in biology and minoring in music.  She has performed with the National Federation of Music Club for several years and was selected to perform at Utah State Solo & Ensemble.  In addition to playing the piano, Dobson is also proficient with the flute.

            Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer, organist, harpsichordist, violist, and violinist.  His abilities as an organist were highly respected throughout Europe during his lifetime, although he was not widely recognized as a great composer until the early 1800s. He is now generally regarded as one of the greatest composers of all time

The Southern Utah Chorale, under the direction of Adrianne Tawa and James Harrison, joins the Orchestra for Bach’s Cantata BVW 196.  Soloists will be soprano Sara Guttenberg, tenor Lawrence Johnson, and baritone Alex Byers.  Guttenberg and Johnson are SUU Music faculty musicians and Byers is an SUU student. 

Bach performed a cantata each Sunday and feast day as the musical director of the Leipzig’s Boys’ Choir.  The cantatas corresponded to the scriptural readings of the week. Bach  composed over 300 sacred cantatas, as well as a number of secular cantatas, usually for civic events such as council inaugurations.

The September 27 concert concludes with Symphony #8, Finale by Bruckner, performed by OSU and the SUU Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Xun Sun.

                     Anton Bruckner was an Austrian composer known for his symphonies, masses, and motets.  His humility was widely recognized among composers of his day.  Bruckner was greatly admired by later composers, including his friend Gustav Mahler, who described him as "half simpleton, half God".

The Orchestra of Southern Fall Concert features composers Bach and Bruckner on Thursday, September 27 at 7:30 pm.  Doors open at 6:45. 

Tickets may be purchased for $10 adults and $5 for students (ages six and up); groups of six are $30 per concert.  Tickets are available one week prior to the concert at the Cedar City Heritage Center Box Office, 105 N. 100 E. or by calling 435-865-2882. Purchasing tickets in advance is recommended. Season tickets are also available at the Box Office and Cedar Music Store and Studio.

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

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


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Recitals Each Tuesday Through Oct. 2

16th Annual Fall Recital Series Starts Sept. 4
            The Orchestra of Southern Utah is pleased to announce its 16th Annual Recital Series.  The five week series includes evenings of musical favorites, as well as a patriotic tribute which commemorates 9/11.

            The series opens Tuesday, September 4, with Musical Potpourri.  This special evening of musical favorites is presented under the direction of Jackie Jackson.  Women’s choir In Jubilo sings favorites from Mary Poppins (including “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious), “How Can I keep from Singing?” arranged by Jane R. Feldsted, “Mister Sandman” arranged by Ed Lojeski, “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair” by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and “Danny Boy” by Fred E. Weatherly.  Pianists Tereasa Redd and Cynthia Jorgensen perform “Amazing Chopsticks.”  Megan Nelson sings “The Man I Love.”

            The Tuesday, September 11 recital is a Patriotic Tribute.  It honors America, its freedoms and people.  Master Singers honor the recital with national favorites directed by Keith Bradshaw.  Vocal trio Christine Reed, Susy Benson, Megan McKibben sing “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” with Bev Sawyer on the piano.  Violinists Heather Burton and Heather Grafelman, violist Allen Butt and cellist John Figueiredo perform patriotic medley “Land of Liberty.” Accidental 5 Brass Ensemble, Liahona Axelson and Color Country Winds also perform.

            Folk Music is the theme for the Tuesday, September 18 recital.  Selections include folk songs, family heritage music, and non-Western compositions.  Violinist Tori Calmity and pianist Kirsten Nevins perform “Souvenir de Sarasate” by Potstock.  Pianist Jack Vickers plays “Seven Good-Humored Variations on a Ukrainian Folksong” by Dmitri Kabalevsky.” Cellist Nina Hansen plays “Julie-O,” as well as a duet with oboist Patrice Ramsay.  The Home Girls (Pam Warburton, Hayli Warbuton and Kylee Landon) sing folk songs for vocal trios.  Jim Howells and Des and Sara Penny play in a vocal, guitar and violin trio.  Hannah and Art Kaufmann also perform Scarborough Fair.

            The Tuesday, September 25 recital highlights the Romantic Era. It features favorite musical selections of Romantic Era composers.  Pianists Tasha Seegmiller and Diane Decker perform “Rondo for Two Pianos” by Chopin.  Soprano Jackie Jackson sings a Schubert aria.  Cellist Michael Wager and pianist Charity Whitaker play “Cello Sonata” by Chopin.  The James Earl Jones Quintet (violinists Heather Burton and Heather Grafelman, cellist John Figueiredo, violist Allen Butt and pianist Logan Butt) perform “Quintet” by Brahms. Pianists David Sun plays and “Etude” by Kabelevsky; sister and fellow pianist Sarah Sun performs “Famtasie Impromptu No 4” by Chopin.  The Southern Utah Quintet plays “Dvorak Quintet, 1st Mvt”.

            Finale Favorites on Tuesday, October 2, concludes the 2012 Fall Recital Series. Violinist Ruth Ipson and piano Mary Anne Andersen perform “Meditation” from Thais by Massenet. Andersen also performs “Symphonie Espagnole, 1st Mvt” by Lalo with violinist Jessie Stephenson and “Chaconne” by Vitali with violinist Sara Ipson. Siblings Jack and Halle Vickers play “Sparklers” by Robert Vandall. Vocalist Fred Dunnell sings “It’s a Wonderful Life” by George Weiss and Bob Thiele, accompanied by Teri Kenney on the piano.  Lyric Soprano Sally Hunter Jensen also performs with Carylee Zwang on percussion.

The Orchestra of Southern Utah Fall Recital Series is held at the St. Jude’s Episcopal Church (70 North 200 West) in Cedar City.   Recitals begin at 7:30pm.  There is a suggested $5 donation for adults and $3 for students.  Children over the age of six are welcome at all the recitals with adult supervision.  OSU requests that babies and children less than six years old not attend as recitals are recorded.

The Orchestra would like to thank Reverend Susan Allman and the congregation at St. Jude’s for their continued support.  “The church has exceptional acoustics and it’s a privilege to perform there,” said Penny.  More information: or 435-586-2286.