Thursday, November 21, 2013

Free Messiah Concert: "Listen to my Heart"

Performance in the old auditorium above the Iron County School District offices, 1999. Gerard Yun conducting.

(Photo from late 1990's performance of Handel's Messiah in Cedar City, David Cole conducting.)

Handel’s Messiah: It stirs the heart and enlivens the mind with memories of Christmases gone before.  The Orchestra of Southern Utah and OSU Chorale invite you to listen and remember as they perform Cedar City’s 73th concert of Handel’s Messiah.

            The meaningful nature of the Messiah and this year’s theme Listen to my Heart inspired OSU Chorale Director Adrianne Tawa as she chose the performance’s repritoire.  “The poetic idea I used as the jumping off spot this year is ‘being broken open’...We all can claim dwelling in darkness from time to time and we all need to be broken open like a potter's vessel in order to receive great light.   Open, vulnerable hearts, both receiving and giving…"

 This inspiring concert is held Sunday, December 8th and Monday, December 9th at 7:30 pm held in the Heritage Center.  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.  OSU and the Heritage Center strongly recommend obtaining your free tickets in advance.  Tickets are available at the Heritage Center Box Office, located at 105 North 100 East in Cedar City. 

The Messiah Concert is conducted by OSU Conductor and Music Director Dr. Xun Sun.  Vocal soloists include Jordan Sanders, Ami Gent, Ashley Rowland, Taliah Byers, Jan Pressgrove, Annie Powell, Dr. Lawrence Johnson, Janese Shaw, and Jacob Pohlsander.  Dr. Adam Lambert is the featured trumpet soloist in the rousing "And the Trumpet Shall Sound".

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.”

The Messiah Concert is performed Sunday, December 8th and Monday, December 9th.  Doors open at 6:45 pm.  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.

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.


Article by Laurel Kay Dodgion, OSU Publicity Director

More information  
Heritage Center Box Office:  435-865-2882
Office open 9 to 5, 
located at southwest corner of building near the parking garage

OSU: 435-586-2286

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Orchestra Of Southern Utah Proves Legends Never Die

                                                              by J.S. Wayne

       Cedar City, UT—The Orchestra of Southern Utah held their fall concert, Legends Never

Die, at the Heritage Theater in downtown Cedar City on the evening of Saturday, November

9, 2013, playing to a nearly full house. The pieces performed by the orchestra included

Wagner’s Overture from Die Miestersinger, used in the 1931 screen version of Dracula starring

Bela Lugosi and also familiar in college graduation ceremonies as the music played while

the audience takes their seats; Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, used in movies such

as Lorenzo’s Oil and The Elephant Man as well as background music for a number of state

funerals worldwide; Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries, eminently recognizable from the opening

to the television show The Lone Ranger, the movie Apocalypse Now and others; and the world

premiere of Dr. Keith Bradshaw’s Canyon Concerto, celebrating the geology and grandeur of

various points around Southern Utah.

       One of the great joys of attending an orchestral performance is seeing the technical

mastery of the performers, and this evening was no exception. The performers’ command of

the pieces was tested almost immediately by a lighting malfunction that plunged the stage into

darkness for a brief moment about two and a half minutes into the concert. To their credit, the

players never faltered in their performance during the blackout. Their enjoyment and command

of the pieces they were playing was evident throughout the evening, as was the energy and

enthusiasm of Dr. Xun Sun, the orchestra’s conductor.

       The haunting, pensive rendition of the Adagio For Strings felt like a melodic poem

speaking to the journey through grief to the acceptance on the other side, while the two Wagner

pieces were performed with all the fire, pomp, and bombast one would expect. During the

opening to Valkyries, someone in the violin section jumped their cue and produced a single,

sharp off tone that cut through the cellos. The player immediately recognized their mistake and

the performance of the pieces was otherwise flawless. One could see Heaven’s handmaidens

swooping down onto a Norse battlefield to collect the valiant slain in the flourishes of the cellos

and the brassy cries of the trumpets.

       The end of the first act also gave Dr. Xun an inadvertent opportunity to showcase his

sense of humor. After applauding the performers and congratulating the first chair violinist and

concertmaster, LuAnne Brown, he turned to bow to the audience. As he did so, he stumbled

over the low step leading to his podium. He took the accident in stride, his smile equal parts

bemusement and chagrin as he bowed to the crowd, signaling the intermission.

       During the intermission, an array of percussion instruments was brought onto the stage

for the use of Lynn Vartan, the guest percussionist and soloist. Among those instruments

represented were tubular bells, also called chimes; a hang drum, which Vartan informed this

writer after the performance had to her knowledge never before been used in an orchestral

performance; a five-octave marimba, an instrument similar to a glockenspiel but with wooden

bars instead of steel; and even a gong. Meanwhile, images of geological points of interest around

Southern Utah were projected onto screens flanking each side of the stage.

       The second act, which consisted wholly of the world premiere of Keith Bradshaw’s

Canyon Concerto, was written by Bradshaw specifically for Vartan. The orchestra played

beautifully, but Vartan stole the show in a sequined magenta tunic and gold four-inch stiletto

heels as she rushed back and forth across the stage, working the audience as deftly as her

instruments. Her signature Western-Asian fusion style of percussion lent visual as well as audial

excitement to the Concerto.

          The first movement of the concerto, Dance of the Hoodoos, celebrates the large totem-

pole-like structures dotting Bryce Canyon. The music was eerily disconnected as Vartan and

the orchestra often took divergent paths, hinting at the rock formations swaying to music never

intended for human ears.

        The second movement, Hanging With Goblins, was inspired by the toadstool-like

formations of Goblin Valley. This spooky, Halloween-esque piece became very strange in the

middle, when the syncopated, complex music suddenly settled into a jazz riff intermezzo which

lasted about a minute and seemed to have nothing to do with the overall theme of the song before

returning to its original eerie theme.

       Gabbing With Gossips, the third movement, references the Three Gossips of Arches

National Park. This piece began with a lively three-way conversation which rose and fell like

three old women exchanging confidences and secrets amongst themselves before building as

each sister in turn rushed to add her own alleged knowledge to the discussion. Once all was said

and done, the conversation died to whispers, and then away altogether.

     The final movement, In The Court of the Patriarchs, was a big, bold, powerful piece

worthy of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. It references the Patriarchs of Zion National Park, named for

Abraham, Jacob, and Isaac of Biblical fame. This piece moved through the suffering of Abraham

as he prepared to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac’s travails in raising twelve children and caring for four

wives, and Jacob’s struggle with the Angel of the Lord. The piece ended with a stirring tonal

hymn punctuated by Vartan’s chimes, bells, and a gong.

     When the show was over, the audience gave Dr. Xun, Ms. Vartan, and the orchestra a

richly deserved standing ovation. This highly talented orchestra is well worth going to see, and a

reprise of this particular program would hardly come amiss.