Saturday, December 22, 2012

Messiah 2012 Pics and Videos

Here are two Youtube clips of the 2012 Messiah concert:

And here are some casual photos of the orchestra and chorale together during the dress rehearsal:

Very special thanks to everyone who supported and participated in this year's Messiah!


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Merry Christmas from OSU

Orchestra of Southern Utah

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




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.         

We hope that you have been enjoying our exciting 2012-13 season.  It has been thrilling to bring to our community some of the classics from the “Big B” composers.  In September we celebrated Bach and Bruckner in cooperation with the Southern Utah Chorale and in November we highlighted works by Brahms and Beethoven.  We were delighted to feature guest violinist Paul Abegg and are pleased that such wonderful musicians perform with OSU.           

This year we have been honored to receive the competitive National Endowment for the Arts “Challenge America” award, one of only two awarded in Utah.  This prestigious recognition has made it possible for OSU to host the Florida-based steel drum band Caribbean Sound for an evening performance on February 21st and for the Children’s Jubilee on February 23rd. We are also providing three school assemblies.

As you are aware this has been a difficult year for arts groups.  There are more groups and yet less funding.  Below summarizes our  challenge:

Last Season
This Season
RAP Fund
Utah Arts Council


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.  All donations are tax-deductible and December charitable contributions enable OSU to finish the remaining half of the season on solid footing.  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 or debit card, we accept all major cards online on our website on the “donor” tab. 

         From all of the staff and musicians of OSU, thank you for your holiday generosity and for supporting great music in Southern Utah.

Harold Shirley, OSU President

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[1] Check enclosed payable to OSU

Name (please print)_______________________________________________________

Address ______________________________________________ City _______________________ State___________ Zip _________________________

Phone_____________________ Email ___________________________________________________________

The name in concert programs (please print)_______________________________________________________


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

Friday, December 14, 2012

Another Messiah 2012 Review

Christmas highlights the Iron County art scene
On Monday, I engaged in one of my favorite holiday tradi­tions: seeing a live perfor­mance of Handel’s “Messiah.” No matter where I find myself around December, I seek out a performance and soak it up. In Cedar City it’s easy, because of the Orchestra of Southern Utah and the Southern Utah Chorale.

This year’s performance of “Messiah,” directed by Xun Sun and Kevin Baker, was phe­nomenal.
At its worst, it provid­ed a perfectly serviceable ren­dition of one of the most-recog­nizable pieces of music of all time. At its best, it transcended what anyone could expect from a semi-professional gathering of singers and musicians.

They are an interesting group of people to watch per­form. Some look like they are pushing past their eighth dec­ade of life, while others haven’t
yet reached their second. Many of them are recognizable as people who populate the con­stant scenery of the area.
These are people you see at school, at government meet­ings, in the store or on the street.

Normal conversation with these people wouldn’t suggest they are part of something as magical and interesting as what happened at Monday’s performance. It’s like discover­ing the guy bagging your gro­ceries
is actually a wizard from Hogwarts. For me, the highlight of the evening came when soloist Taliah Byers sang the “Number 23” section — where Isaiah 53:3 is quoted: “He was despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

I’ve seen dozens of soloists sing this portion. This is the first time I felt the singer was
telling me a story rather than reciting a portion of the Bible. Byers not only sang the words, she looked as if she were telling the audience the concept that Jesus suffered for the first time and it broke her heart. Her rendition haunts me even as I write about it.
Of course the quality of Monday’s performance wasn’t surprising. I’ve often said the audiences in Southern Utah are quick to give standing ovations — but that’s because they’re accustomed to seeing a level of quality in the artistic offerings of the area that all but demand one.

It’s something to keep in mind this holiday season when every performance group is eager to share their talents with the general population.

I’ve talked with a number of people who like to categorize Iron County into separate sections, like a TV dinner. There is the agricultural community, the industrial community, the tourism community, the educational community and the art community, all competing for tax dollars and attention.

This isn’t the reality of the situation. Iron County is unique as it doesn’t have the one defining industry that other similarly sized areas have. After the mine closed, I think the area was scared away from that sort of social structure, creating what we now have.

It’s working because there are enough people willing to keep the separate groups that define the area in a universally beneficial ecosystem of sorts. It keeps the area viable when similar communities are following. It’s a tricky thing to keep balanced, though, and will fall apart if we stop supporting each other.

Take the opportunity this holiday season to support the local art scene. See a concert, buy paintings as gift or donate to a local group. It’s part of who we are.

by Josh Huntsman

High Country Beat
(Daily News 12-14-12 Front Page)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Messiah Review 2012

Seven Decades Old, Yet Ever New

By Bryce Christensen

“Christmas,” in the view of Protestant pastor David De Witt, “is all about tradition.”  “No other time of the year,” De Witt explains, “seems so rich and complete with a special series of traditions.”  For music-lovers in Cedar City, no Christmas tradition counts for more than the annual holiday production of Handel’s Messiah.  That tradition was once again renewed at the Heritage Center on the nights of December 9th and 10th as the Orchestra of Southern Utah and the Southern Utah Chorale combined their talents to inspire capacity audiences with this seasonal masterpiece.  As Orchestra of Southern Utah President Harold Shirley remarked in introducing Cedar City’s 72nd production of this sublime work, the Messiah tells the sacred and timeless Christmas story in a way that will “never grow old.”

From the majestic opening strains of the “Overture” that began the work to the magisterial choral Amens that concluded it, the years—even the decades—melted away, and the impressive brilliance of this year’s superb production of the Messiah echoed every excellence attained in previous productions. 

Among the nine soloists, two—bass Larry Johnson and soprano Jan Pressgrove—were mature and seasoned vocalists whose strong performances reflected many years of musical devotion.  Johnson rendered “Comfort Ye My People” in movingly plaintive tones, and delivered “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” in notes tremulous with hope.  Pressgrove sang “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth” as a transcendent testimony, beautifully radiant with conviction. 

The other seven soloists—sopranos Shaye Leavitt, Melissa Leavitt, and Christina Meikle; altos Annie Powell,  Laurice Williamson, and Taliah Byers; and bass Alex Byers—performed with poise and self-possession surprising in rising  young singers. 

Leavitt soared to celestial heavens in “There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field” and “An Angel Said Unto them,” only to then transport listeners with “And Suddenly  There Was With the Angelic” in what truly seemed an angelic voice.

In “Come Unto Me,” entranced listeners were enthralled by Melissa Leavitt’s poignant pleading, the pleading of a divine voice directed to mortal ears. 

In Meikle’s performance of “If God Be For Us” (a wonderful piece outside of the standard repertoire for an abbreviated version of Handel’s meisterwerk), listeners marveled at the luminous flow of divine solace.

Powell’s “Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive” gave the audience a distillation of sublime wonder, and her “O Thou That Tellest” offered a stirring affirmation.

With “The Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Opened,” Williamson opened miraculous vistas with notes of liquid grace, a remarkable grace she sustained as she segued to the pastoral comfort of “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd.” 

Taliah Byers’ “”He Was Despised” brimmed with a deeply moving pathos, a pathos answered by Alex Byers in the profound marvelings of “Behold, I Tell You a Mystery” and in the forceful assurance of “The Trumpet Shall Sound.”  Etching “The Trumpet Shall Sound” even more deeply in the memory was Pete Atkins’ penetrating trumpet solo in this number.

Of course, Atkins was far from the only instrumentalist whose talents enriched this year’s Messiah performance.  The entire orchestra sustained a very high level of musicianship throughout the concert.  This musicianship was notably evident in the two numbers—the opening “Overture” and the “Pastoral Symphony”--performed by the orchestra without the choir. But what listener did not especially appreciate the irresistible instrumental contribution to the thrilling crescendos of the chorus numbers, including especially “And the Glory of the Lord,” “For Unto Us a Child Is Born, and “Hallelujah!”? 

Deserving note was not only the manifest skill of the orchestra instrumentalists but also the unmistakable feeling.  This was a performance by musicians who cared about the music they played.  And in their emotional investment, listeners detected the most fundamental and important of the linkages between this year’s Messiah performers and their predecessors in a vital musical tradition.

The emotion evident in this year’s production of the Messiah radiated out from director and conductor Xun Sun.  Always spirited and engaged in the music he conducts, Sun appeared singularly impassioned in leading this performance.  And his passion was contagious.  Though deserving of the attention he received at the performance for having recently completed his doctorate at Columbia University, Sun—Dr. Sun—conveyed the pulse of this marvelous Christmas composition with an intensity that will never come out of merely academic study.

Though less visible during the concert than Sun, chorale director Kevin Baker likewise deserves praise for his role as the leader of the chorale for this year’s Messiah.  In his first year in this role, Baker somehow tapped into all of the resources of this much-cherished regional tradition.  Like the orchestra instrumentalists under Sun’s baton, the chorale singers under Baker’s direction fused technical mastery with from-the-heart emotion.  Whether in the exultant passages of “Lift Up Your Heads, O Ye Gates,” the strikingly kinetic measures of “Since By Man Came Death,” or the triumphantly joyous climax of “”Hallelujah!” the choir sang with skill informed by fervor. 

As delighted listeners left the Heritage Center Sunday and Monday nights, they did so newly grateful for a Christmas tradition that connects them with a splendid past and points the way to a promising future in which the notes of Handel’s masterpiece will enrich Christmases for years and years to come. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Messiah Daily News Article

(Thanks to Cathy Wentz and Asher Swan for the newspaper coverage in the Daily News. Only about 20 Sunday tickets left. Monday tickets still available)

Christmas tradition

Production of ‘Messiah’ ready

By Cathy Wentz

The Or­chestra of Southern Utah and Southern Utah Chorale are busy putting final touches on their 72nd production of “Messiah,” Handel’s Christ­mas classic.

Performances will be Sun­day and Monday at the Heri­tage Theater, 105 N. 100 East. Cedar City resident June Thorley, a violinist for OSU, said she has performed “Messiah” with the orchestra since she was 14 and con­tinues to play. She also said she taught orchestra music in schools throughout the Iron County School District for 37 years.

Thorley said she con­tinues to perform “Messiah” with OSU because she loves it and enjoys working with the other people involved.

“It’s a project we love do­ing together,” she said.

Kevin Baker, in his second year as director of choral ac­tivities at Southern Utah Uni­versity, said he is directing the chorale this year because director Adrienne Tawa had to step away from it earlier in the fall. 

Southern Utah University's Musical Director Kevin Baker
rehearses "Messiah" with the Orchestra of Southern Utah
and the Southern Utah Chorale group Thursday.

“They offered me the chance to work with the group and I just jumped at that,” he said. “It’s a wonderful tradition we have here in Cedar City.”
Xun Sun, who also serves as director of the SUU Symphony Orchestra, is music director and conductor for “Messiah.”

Baker described “Messiah” as a wonderful piece of music, adding that it is a piece that most musicians have done several times during their careers.

“It’s one of those pieces of music that no matter how often you do it, it seems like you find new and exciting things in it,” he said.

He added, “About the time you think you really know the piece, some other little insight arises and it brings a whole new level of understanding and enjoyment to the work.”

Baker said there are three or four pieces that stand as important pieces in the world of choral work, and “Messiah” is definitely one of those pieces. He said he finds it difficult to identify one selection, or movement, out of the piece as a favorite. He said he loves the trumpet shell sound and what it says about the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the hope it provides to individuals.

He said although the chorale is not performing the selection, “All We Like Sheep,” it is a hilarious commentary by Handel on people as they start down the path of life, doing it well, and then they get lost and wander into the weeds.

Baker said he appreciates the opportunity to work on “Messiah” with the community members because they have been very receptive.

“They love doing this performance; they love the music, and they love offering this to the community,” he said.

Sara Penny, manager for OSU, said she thinks the performance of “Messiah” is a wonderful community event as the Christmas season advances.

“People love it,” she said.

She also said she appreciates the sponsorship of State Bank of Southern Utah and The Leavitt Group, which makes free admission to the concert possible. Additionally, she said, orchestra and chorale members donate their time to perform.

Kevin Baker rehearses "Messiah"
with the Orchestra of Southern
Utah and the Southern Utah
Chorale group.