Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fall Orchestra of Southern Utah Photos

Backstage before the concert with soloist Sarah Sun and violist Hannah Bradshaw

David Jordan played the extensive marimba solo in "Africa"
Kylee Christiansen and Carylee Zwang prepare before the concert for the "Typewriter"
Dr. Xun, OSU Music Director and Conductor, with his daughter, pianist Sarah Sun
Liahona Hepworth and Mandy Minkler serve as OSU librarians.

Trumpets at intermission after "Bulger's Holiday"

More from the trumpets

Enterprise Choir at dress rehearsal for "Africa"

Tyler Braun, Joshua Fletcher, and Carylee Zwang at dress rehearsal on the African drums.
Enterprise Choir and Orchestra before the concert.

Harry Taylor provided lobby music for the 11/13/14 concert.

Lobby before the 11/13/14 concert.

American composers and American flags at 11/13/14 concert.  Even the audience got into the mood.
Wilhelm provided lobby music for 10/9/14 concert

Melissa Leavitt has implemented the 4th grade Musical Passport program thanks to donor support.
Lobby before the 10/9/14 concert.

OSU President Harold Shirley presents guest conductor Tao Wu with plaque before concert.
In Jubilo in the 10-9-14 concert
SUU Opus Chamber Choir under the direction of Kevin Baker.
Master Singers under the direction of Dee Rich.

Canyon View High School Choir under the direction of Adrianne Tawa
Tao Wu greets Dixie and Anne Leavitt after the concert.
Xun Sun, Katie Johnson, Tao Wu, and OSU Manager Emily Hepworth after 10-9-14 concert

Backstage after the concert with past and present OSU violinists.

Xun Sun receives a gift from an OSU patron after the concert.

Xun Sun,  Mrs. Tao Wu, Sara Penny, Tao Wu and Pete Akins after the concert

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3RqQDSmB0A&list=UU9nsAT3-XJ5YFB-_ENUw2BQ for video of performance

Friday, November 14, 2014

Defying Boundaries through Music

By Bryce Christensen

By jet, by cruise ship, by train, and by car, Americans travel like no other people on earth.  But during the evening of November 17th, a fortunate group of Americans gathered in Cedar City’s Heritage Center traveled on the most glorious conveyance of all: Music.  For in a concert dedicated to “American Composers Without Borders,” the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) transported enthralled listeners to distant lands and prospects via music created by talented American music-makers.

To start the evening’s journeys, OSU President Harold Shirley welcomed the audience, promising that the program listeners were about to hear would indeed erase boundaries, giving each concert-goer a private passport to marvelous new horizons. 

And the evening’s first stop fulfilled everything Shirley had promised: composed by the Utah-based American composers Steven Sharp Nelson and Marshall McDonald, Africa carried listeners to a mysterious continent teeming with vitality.  This five-segment number limned the life-cycle from birth to death, and beyond, with a deep emotive force certifying that Nelson and McDonald travel as something more than gawking tourists.  Opening with the pulsing heartbeat of a single marimba (played by David Jordan), this captivating number quickly swelled into a kinetic celebration of the adventures and delights of an African childhood.  The entire audience felt the magic of this childhood, but that magic touched no one more deeply than the OSU percussionists, who lit up the concert hall with the radiant flames of their enthusiasm. 

Sparks from that enthusiasm fell into the dry kindling of the Enterprise High School Choir, joining the Orchestra for this number.  The lambent voices of this choir quickened the exuberant adolescent segment of Africa, as the young singers channeled their own spontaneous and irrepressible hopes so compellingly into Swahili verses that linguistic boundaries melted away in the intense heat.
Under the impassioned baton of OSU conductor Xun Sun, the orchestra turned from the fervid joyousness of adolescence to the angst-filled drama of young adulthood, the tension of this drama poignantly delivered by plaintive exchanges between a solo violin (LuAnne Brown) and a solo cello (Nina Hansen).

Instrumentalists and vocalists alike then modulated their tone into the darker tones in the Age segment of Africa, a segment probing the regrets and sorrows of advancing years.   Briefly condensed into a piercing flute solo (Ariel Rhoades), the theme of this segment also occasioned a somber but profoundly moving response from the choir, as prepared to voice subdued sorrow as they had been earlier to express exultant joy.

In the final segment of Africa, the orchestra segued into a supernal foray into the afterlife, carrying listeners briefly across that most fundamental of boundaries—the one separating the living from the dead.  Yet after an interlude of paradisiacal bliss, the orchestra returned to the percussive earthy dynamism of birth, so completing an unforgettable life cycle.

Something of the transcendent mood of the final segment of Africa persisted in the concert’s second number, Song of Eternity, by contemporary composer Mark Dal Porto.  In a work that opened with notes of serene majesty and then deepened into soul-plumbing melancholy, Song once again transgressed metaphysical boundaries separating time from eternity, the terrestrial from the celestial.  Dal Porto’s searching melancholy deepened to a pensiveness so intense that it finally distilled into the complete introspection of silence, a silence broken first by a hopeful oboe (Brad Gregory), then joined by a sublime harp (Kendra Leavitt), then by the stirring energies of the strings, and finally by the cumulative force of the entire orchestra.  After rising to a resplendent climax fusing all the harmonic and rhythmic voices of the orchestra, Dal Porto’s otherworldly masterpiece glides into a conclusion of soundless reverence. 

Not silence but muted and gentle sound pervaded much of the next number, Chaconne After a Storm by the contemporary American composer Chad Cannon (another Utah native).  Though the title of this selection identifies it as only a passage across a meteorological boundary—that separating storminess from calm—the orchestra played this number with such exquisite tenderness that it transported listeners across hidden emotional boundaries—fissures in the heart---as well.  Foregrounding the harp (Kendra Leavitt again) in the opening measures, the score soon shifted its fragile emotional burden to the cellos and basses before finally yielding that burden to the violins, violas, and harp, who carried their spiritual cargo up to a real but hard-won realm of tranquility.

The tone changed dramatically with the evening’s next composition: Typewriter, by the 20th-century American composer Leroy Anderson.  Indeed, the boundary musicians and listeners crossed with this number was that separating seriousness from facetiousness.  With OSU assistant conductor Adam Lambert temporarily replacing Xun Sun on the conductor’s platform, OSU’s other assistant conductor, Carylee Zwang, soloed on the most unlikely of instruments—the typewriter!  Soloist and orchestra alike frolicked their way through this utterly frivolous but also utterly amusing and entertaining trifle.

With the second Leroy Anderson piece of the evening—Bugler’s Holiday—Carylee Zwang took her turn on the conductor’s stand while Adam Lambert took his place as the leader of a trumpet section featured in this festival of sheer propulsive energy.  The infectious energy of this number left more than few listeners humming the bouncy ascents of its refrains during intermission!
After the intermission, OSU President Harold Shirley reappeared to introduce the final number of the evening: Rhapsody in Blue, by the 20th-century American composer George Gershwin.  With this popular number, Shirley reminded his audience, listeners not only hear musicians transgressing the traditional boundary separating jazz from classical but they also hear a melody so expressive of sheer flight across all kinds of geographical boundaries that United Airlines has chosen it as their advertising theme. 

But in introducing the evening’s final number, Shirley also introduced a remarkable soloist: thirteen-year-old pianist Sarah Sun.  Daughter of OSU conductor Xun Sun, Sarah Sun positively dazzled with her keyboard performance!  Playing with the technical virtuosity and the artistic expressiveness of a musical artist twice her age, Sun delivered all the pyrotechnics of the most frenetic passages and all of the liquid sonority of the most nuanced measures.

To be sure, Sarah Sun was not the only musician on the stage performing masterfully during the Gershwin number: the Rhapsody opened with a beguiling solo by clarinetist Sarah Solberg, soon joined by the entire orchestra responding to the direction of Xun Sun (now back on the conductor’s platform) with a thoroughly impressive performance of this number, luminous and vibrant. 
Still, only one musician on the stage was too young to drive a car—and she was transforming her piano into a vehicle for reaching astonishing musical regions!  (If the conductor felt a bit of fatherly pride, it was a more than understandable emotion!)  No wonder the members of the audience leaped to their feet at the conclusion of the concert in a standing ovation!  For this was a concert during which they had not only felt the power of five American composers lifting them to new regions of the body, mind, and spirit but had also experienced the wizardry of one remarkably young musician carrying them to an undreamed-of wonderland where a girl barely in her teens played like a seasoned virtuoso!

All involved—OSU musicians, conductor Xun Sun, the Enterprise High School Choir, soloist Sarah Sun—deserve high praise for an evening of boundary-crossing travel inspired by American composers.  But it is perhaps appropriate that an evening so bountiful in its promise for the musical future that lies across boundaries of years to come was also a tribute by concert sponsor Melinda Wagner in memory of Orien Dalley, who contributed much to Cedar City music across the boundary of years past.  This evening reminded all present that, as a timeless art, music ultimately bridges both of those temporal boundaries.