Sunday, February 24, 2013
Friday, February 22, 2013
By Bryce Christensen
When the Beach Boys crooned a dreamy itinerary of Caribbean destinations in their 1988 hit “Kokomo” (Aruba, Jamaica, . . . Bermuda, Bahama, Key Largo, Montego), Cedar City somehow did not make the list. But Cedar City did finally share for a couple hours in the magic of the Caribbean on the night of February 21st, thanks to the Orchestra of Southern Utah’s concert. Indeed, OSU President Harold Shirley promised in his introductory comments that listeners would be using their concert ticket as a passport, a passport to an island paradise. And, at least in imaginative feeling, that is exactly what the evening brought, as an outpouring of magical music transported listeners to a pleasant sunny clime, south of the 30th parallel.
Celebrating the theme of “Capturing the Carribean,” this OSU concert brought to the Heritage Center stage the Florida-based steel-drum band Caribbean Sound, performing as guest artists. And the force of their artistry was immediately felt in the first number on the program: Barry Olsavsky’s arrangement of Archipelago, an irresistibly kinetic number, largely carried by the impulsive energy of the steel drums, but punctuated by spirited solos by flute and clarinet, reminding listeners that wind and reed instrumentalists would not let the percussionists have all the fun in this delightful romp!
Though the process was anything but painful, concertgoers did have to adjust their ears to the novel sound of a steel drum, an instrument that traces its origin (as members of the ensemble explained) to ingenious musicians in Trinidad and Tobago, who converted empty oil drums into a surprisingly versatile and sonorous new instrument. As it responded to the skillful hands of the guest ensemble, the steel drum sounded rather like an exuberant organ.
The capacity of this unfamiliar instrument to produce musical pleasure became wonderfully evident in Osalvsky’s Island Jammers, a rollicking number that fused the instrumental and voice talents of the guest performers so compellingly that the listeners in the audience were soon swaying and clapping along, swept away in an irresistible Caribbean-style celebration.
For their third number, Osalvsky’s A Night in Madrid, the guest performers carried their Caribbean instruments into an Iberian setting, where the mood was more dramatic, though less spontaneous, suggestive more of tightly choreographed Flamenco than spontaneous reggae.
Listeners found themselves back in the Caribbean with Bob Marley’s laid-back and nonchalant Three Little Birds, a heart-easing invitation to let go of cares and worries.
Veering again into a Spanish modality, the performers segued into the hard-driving beat of Santa Maria, a beat sustained for a time by listeners so infected with the rhythm that they clapped along with the captivating pulse.
Caribbean enchantment returned to the stage after the intermission as the guest performers backed by the Orchestra joined in the bright, bouncy, and sassy hipness of a medley combining Osalvsky’s Hipppies on the Beach,Stevie Wonder’s Master Blaster, and Bob Marley’s Jammin in one melodic tapestry.
Bringing out a shimmering jazz calypso tune, the guest artists turned next to Andy Narell’s Out of the Blue, a number that opened with ethereal, even unearthly notes, but soon delivered the feel of a lively jaunt down a sunny beach.
Some of that same feeling carried over to the medley to which the performers next turned, a medley combining Olsavsky’s African Summertime with a number of Carlos Santana numbers. Though it began with a notably restrained and understated steel-drum solo, this medley soon accelerated and amplified, issuing in a joyous fiesta of percussive sound. Listeners could only marvel at the power of the crescendos surging through the insistent cadence.
The power in the theater soon spilled over the stage boundary, however, as happy concert-goers sang and clapped to Olsavsky’s infectious Limbo Rock.
For the only time during the concert, the guest artists yielded the spotlight during the concert’s penultimate number, Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean. To conduct this number, Maestro Xun Sun himself donned pirate attire (complete with eye patch) to lead musicians who were themselves clad in the casual fashions and colorful prints of Caribbean style. Appropriate and even entertaining, the unusual dress quickly faded from the audience’s awareness, as listeners found themselves enraptured by a number than began with mellow strings and brooding brass but soon swelled into a taut and thrilling evocation of swashbucklers’ adventures on the high seas. Though the orchestra performed very well under Maestro Sun’s baton as background for the Caribbean Sound’s selections, their superb performance in this exciting number reminded all present of how much musical treasure the OSU gives this region even when not hosting gifted visitors.
In a fitting finale, the talented guests from Florida again took their place at the front of the stage, where they erupted in Ken Philmore’s positively frenetic Pan by Storm, evoking a Caribbean party atmosphere as wild as anything in Rio.
As listeners left the Heritage Center at the conclusion of the concert, returning once again to the frigid and snowy reality of Cedar City in February, they did so deeply grateful for their brief musical foray to an enchanting Caribbean elysium of ocean, sand, and palm trees. Many more such concerts and travel agents in Cedar City will simply close their doors!
Thursday, February 7, 2013
OSU was again invited to the annual "Arts Day on the Hill" event at the Utah State Capitol. Our extremely supportive legislators, Senator Evan Vickers and Representative Westwood, continue to ensure that OSU and other Cedar City arts organizations get the necessary support from state government. We sincerely appreciate all of their efforts in helping Southern Utah.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Donors are updated regularly on our website at http://www.orchestraofsouthernutah.org/donors. We appreciate everyone who helps make it possible for us to provide live symphony music. Donations purchase music, pay rent at the Heritage Center, buy percussion, pay for guest artists, and also help keep ticket prices low enough for our low income area so that more people can enjoy the music.
We appreciate everyone who helps.
Friday, February 1, 2013
The Beat of a Different Drum
Percussion is often referred to as the heartbeat or backbone of an orchestra. It provides a beat and rhythm for the orchestra to follow. The percussionists with the Orchestra of Southern Utah do this job well. Now, thanks to the purchase of new equipment, they are able to expand their drum and mallet lines for an even better performance.
OSU recently purchased many new percussion instruments, including a marimba, xylophone, drum set, congas, bongos, bass drum, snare, cymbals and auxiliary percussion instruments. These long-awaited instruments make it possible to play concert pieces with the appropriate equipment. Percussionists will no longer need to substitute instruments or leave parts of the music out of the performance, bringing the whole Orchestra to an even higher level of excellence.
The percussionists stated they are most excited about the marimba. OSU has been able to borrow marimbas from the local schools in the past and is grateful to have their own. The Orchestra’s marimba is being handcrafted by Doug DeMorrow and company in Arkansas.
The Orchestra hopes to receive their new marimba before their February concerts Capturing the Caribbean (Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.) and Ahoy Pirates Childrens Jubilee (Feb. 23, 2 p.m.) These two concerts feature steel drum band Caribbean Sound and music of the Caribbean. The marimba, which originated in Africa and made famous in Central America, will sound right at home in these concerts.
“We started with a timpani in 1989 and have slowly added percussion since that time,” said Sara Penny, OSU Manager. “We appreciate the financial support of donors which has made this possible over the years. We are also now able to rent some of the larger instruments to other groups who use the Heritage Center so it makes it performances easier in the building. Carylee Zwang is the current Percussion Section Leader and she has been wonderful in selecting and maintaining this valuable collection.”
For more information on the Orchestra of Southern Utah or its upcoming concerts, visit www.orchestraofsouthernutah.org.
(article by Laurel Dodgion with photos by Laurel Dodgion, Jim Case, and Sara Penny)