Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Free Messiah Concert to Celebrate Season

The Orchestra of Southern Utah and Southern Utah Chorale perform their 72th concert of Handel’s Messiah Concert on Sunday, December 9th and Monday, December 10th 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. 

Due to the popularity of this holiday tradition, tickets are required.  Free tickets may be obtained at the Heritage Center Box Office, located at 105 North 100 East in Cedar City.  OSU and the Heritage Center ask that all ticket holders be seated no later that 7:15 pm.  Open seats will be released at that time to those without tickets on a first come first seat basis.

The Orchestra is hosting a food drive in conjunction with the Messiah Concerts.  All food will be donated to the Iron County Care & Share.  “Too many in Iron County are trying to get by on too little,” stated OSU President Harold Shirley.  “You can help stock our Care and Share Food Bank by bringing a canned good (or two) to this year’s Messiah performance.

This year, the Cedar City Interfaith Council will be giving away cookies after each night’s performance of Messiah. They will also be selling CDs to raise funds for our local Care and Share.

The Messiah Concert is conducted by OSU Conductor and Music Director Xun Sun.  The Chorale is under the direction of Kevin Baker.  Soloists include Larry Johnson, Annie Powell, Shaye Leavitt, Laurice Williamson, Melissa Leavitt, Taliah Byers, Jan Pressgrove, Alex Byers and Christina Meikle.

Due to the length of the Messiah, only portions of the oratorio to be performed.  This year’s pieces include the Overture, “And the Glory,” “O thou that tallest good tidings,” “For unto us,” “Glory to God,” “His Yoke is Easy,” “Lift up your heads,” “Hallelujah,” “Since By Man Came Death” and “Worthy is the Lamb” plus several of the popular arias.

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 countless times in December, though portions of the work are sometimes performed at Easter.

The Messiah Concert is performed Sunday, December 9th and Monday, December 10th.  Tickets may be obtained for no charge at the Heritage Center Box Office.  Doors open at 6:45 pm.  OSU and the Heritage Center asks that all ticket holders be seated no later that 7:15 pm.  Open seats will be released at that time to those without tickets on a first come first seat basis.

 Many in our area need a little extra at this time of year, so the Orchestra of Southern Utah encourages patrons to bring a few extra cans of food to help our Care and Share.  “When we each give a little, we help a lot,” said Shirley.

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 the Heritage Center Box Office at 435-865-2882.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Frolics, Funerals, and the OSU

By Bryce Christensen
Brahms never wrote a more mischievously frolicsome piece than his Academic Festival Overture, so facetiously playful in some passages that it dismayed straitlaced university dignitaries when it was first performed as Brahms’ official thank you for an honorary degree.  On the other hand, Beethoven never wrote more somber music than that found in the Second Movement of his Eroica Symphony, composed in imaginative anticipation of the death of Napoleon, and later performed at the funeral of Felix Mendelsohn and still later chosen to commemorate the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.   Yet somehow both of these numbers appeared on the program—with Strauss’s Serenade for Thirteen Winds and Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D thrown in for good measure!—when the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) took the stage at the Heritage Center on November 8th for a concert exploring music of  unmatched emotional range. 
To be sure, the evening’s first number—Strauss’s tranquil Serenade for Thirteen Winds—gave little hint as to just how much emotional vicissitude would follow.  But even in the tranquility of this number, listeners could detect a certain textural complexity.  For beneath the buoyant serenity of the clarinets, flutes, and oboes, listeners discerned the deeper, subterranean repose of the French horns and bassoons.  And while the composition as a whole maintained a peaceful flow, stirrings of energetic assertion repeatedly bubbled to the surface.  Punctuating the harmony of the well-integrated ensemble, memorable solos—now flute, now oboe, now clarinet—punctuated this lyrical masterpiece.   
But the nostalgically resonant conclusion of the Strauss number was the signal for the entire orchestra to join the thirteen wind players for a number that plunged listeners into a much deeper well of 19th-century emotion.  Playing the second movement of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, the orchestra pulled the audience into funereal depths.  The grief of bereavement marks the opening measures of this stirring number, yet listeners soon feel a powerful groping towards consolation. And slowly the glimmerings of such consolation—in piercing notes of brass and luminous notes of strings—begin to flash through the darkness.  More than just consolation, something more akin to affirmation—and that on a grand scale—finally emerges, with a strength that validates the designation of this number as the Heroic Symphony.  To be sure, the heroic affirmation does subside to more plaintive and mournful strains.  Yet undercurrents of heroic vitality persist in the later passages of this movement, evincing the undying presence of an unconquerable will.  Even if that will does fade into elegy in the final notes, listeners cannot doubt that they are lamenting the passing of some titan, not some mere mortal. 
Making an even sharper tonal pivot than they had in moving from the concert’s first number to its second, the orchestra left Beethoven’s funeral march for the jocular impishness of Academic Festival Overture.  Bursting with irrepressible energy from its first notes, this is a number that sweeps listeners up in rollicking good fun!  Brahms borrowed freely from rowdy student drinking songs in composing this boisterous number: Brahms apparently chooses to acknowledge an academic honor by celebrating the delights of playing hooky at the local tavern!
The good-natured facetiousness of the work does eventually give way to a more sober and serious theme.  But in his gesture to the academy, Brahms never surrenders to dry pedantry.  Even in his very substantive conclusion, he remains vibrant and joyous, radiant with the kind of gladness that education too often lacks!  That OSU conductor Xun Sun understands such gladness was clearly evident in the infectious zeal with which he directed this thoroughly enjoyable number.
Having sampled serenity, sorrow, and glee, the OSU paused after the Intermission for a moment of gratitude.  Together, OSU President Harold Shirley and OSU Music Director and Conductor Xun Sun honored cellist Michelle Mackay Tincher for the decades of service with the Orchestra.  Having endured a leg amputation, the death of her husband, and macular degeneration, Tincher has herself experienced a prolonged cascade of emotions, many of them painful.  Yet her continuing and unfailingly cheerful presence in the orchestra manifests her unbreakable commitment to sharing her musical talent with the community, a commitment that should inspire musicians everywhere!
In the evening’s final number, a gifted guest soloist—violinist Dr. Paul Abegg--stepped into the spotlight and thrilled the audience with his performance of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D.  Indeed, this marvelous number seemed to fold into a sublime culmination of all of the emotions of the evening—tranquility, sorrow, merriment, and gratitude.  From its pulsating opening notes to its dynamic final measures, the soloist and accompanying orchestra both soared on pinions of musical magic.   Impressive in his poised mastery of the music, Abegg rendered passages of kinetic striving and passages of reflective pensiveness with the deceptive ease that signals complete command.  At times, Abegg seemed to be playing as if in a trance, transported to unseen imaginative heights.  The accompanying orchestra, in turn, seemed to feed off from Abegg’s brilliant artistry--and to return it in kind.
Listeners could only marvel at Abegg’s exceptional talent—and hope that a performer so young would be back to the Heritage Center to share that talent again!
The emotions that OSU explored in this one relatively concert varied remarkably!  What did not vary, however, was the high level of musicianship, a musicianship fusing passion with grace in a rare musical alchemy.  Conductor Xun Sun, President Harold Shirley, and all the other officers and members of the Orchestra of Southern Utah deserve high praise for what do in repeatedly giving music-lovers in this community one rare and priceless emotion: exhilaration!