Friday, February 20, 2015

A Brilliant New Constellation

By Bryce Christensen

As lovers of classical music have mourned the recent passing of major luminaries—including Claudio Abbado, Licia Albanese, Christopher Hogwood, Lorin Maazel, Stephen Paulus, and José Feghali—they have reflected on how much their lives were enriched by the priceless gifts these individuals brought into the world and on how quickly such gifts passed from us.   Never abundant, musical talent counts as a perishable cultural resource, one that must be renewed generation to generation, or it will be lost orever.  No matter how brightly they may shine today, today’s stars of classical music must—one by one—blink out, leaving the musical heavens depressingly dark unless they are replaced by rising new

Fortunately, the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) annually hosts a concert-- the Roy L. Halversen Young Artists Concert--especially devoted to recognizing and fostering new talent.  Held at the Heritage Center on February 19th, this year’s Halversen Concert—celebrating the theme of “Harmonious Ambassadors”—added fresh luster to the glowing reputation of this concert tradition, allowing a delighted audience to thrill to the budding talents of young musicians who will help fill the void left by the passing of figures such as Abbado, Albanese, Hogwood, Maazel, Paulus, and Feghali.

After OSU President Harold Shirley had welcomed the audience to this special concert to showcasing budding talent, a radiant Tanisa Crosby took the stage as the first of the five featured young musicians.   As OSU Assistant Conductor Carylee Zwang took the baton to lead the orchestra, Crosby demonstrated her exceptional skills as a the soloist for the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G. Coaxing from her instrument a delightful stream of liquid sonorities, Crosby performed with an impressive confidence, ably engaging the orchestra in a sustained dialogue, ably interpreted both pensive and propulsive passages with self-possessed ease.  A Southern Utah University student pursuing a double major in English and Music, Crosby will thrill music lovers for many years to come.

An even younger soloist, the fifteen-year-old violist Madison Marshall took the stage as OSU Conductor Xun Sun took over directing responsibilities for Theme and Variations for Viola and Orchestra by Alan Shulman.  Belying her age, Marshall displayed a mature interpretive mastery of this many-hued number.

From the opening strains of autumnal mellowness, Marshall seamless accelerated into passages of fitful tension, only to finally melt into the sweetly mournful melancholy of the conclusion.  With the assurance of a seasoned concert soloist, Marshall distilled the essence of each melodic movement.  Listeners could only marvel at the virtuosity of an instrumentalist with her best years still before her!

As Sun yielded the Baton back to Zwang, Madison Davis took the limelight as the only vocalist featured on this evening of young musical talent.  A mezzo soprano, Davis poured forth a compelling torrent of passion in her powerful rendition of Gluck’s Che Faro Senza Euridice.  Fully into her mythical character,

Davis conveyed all the wrenching pathos of eternal separation from a lover.  A sophomore music major at SUU, Davis gave the audience reason to hope to hear her not many years hence singing from the As the last pre-intermission soloist, another fifteen-year-old prodigy, violinist Janna Ostler, took center stage, as Sun again took his place on the conductor’s platform for Haydn’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in G Major.  The concert may have been an event for mere mortals, but this number conveyed something of the celestial rhythms of a heavenly court filled with pirouetting angels!  And it was largely because of Ostler’s instrumental magic—a magic of almost unearthly and spritely joyfulness--that listeners felt they had been transported to the empyrean.  As she worked her instrumental enchantment on the audience,

Ostler herself seemed to fall beneath the spell, clearly enjoying every lustrous note she drew from her violin.  A phenomenon as a teenager, this talented young lady will no doubt continue to carry her listeners—and herself--into realms of rare happiness in future decades.

 After the intermission, it was Jacob Lee who commanded the attention of the audience as a youthful musical artist.  But Lee was an invisible artist.  For unlike the other four featured Halversen musicians, Lee did not perform.  Rather, he composed.  Lee’s composition the Casey Jones Overture received its world premiere at this concert under the masterful baton of Xun Sun.  A marvelous evocation of the romance and legendry of 19th-century railroading, this number breathed some of the fire and smoke of the great coal-burning steam locomotives that conquered the wide open spaces of frontier America.  But it was not just restive energy that animated this remarkably strong youthful composition; Lee captured something of the majesty of mechanized movement along a burgeoning America’s dynamic new rail arteries and something of the splendor of the breathtaking vistas that railroad pioneers opened up.   Though still unknown to most of the world of classical music, Lee left a mark on listeners convinced that they had heard the vibrant work of a composer just embarking on a career sure to produce many more comparable—and even greater—works.

With the Casey Jones Overture, the exciting parade of rising new talent ended.  But the musical excitement did not.  Far from it.  Under the vigorous baton of Adam Lambert, the orchestra
next performed the Sabre Dance, a kinetic fragment of Khachaturian’s ballet Gayane. The tarantella-like cadence of this number demanded frenetic musicianship from the orchestra, but conductor and
instrumentalists were equal to their task, carrying the audience away in a pulse-pounding frenzy that swept the mesmerized audience along in a St. Vitus dance of pure delirium.

And the audience could only marvel that after playing such a wild and exhausting penultimate number, the orchestra could still find ample energy for its finale: Khachaturian’s carnivalesque Waltz.  Perhaps it took the spirit of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras a couple days to reach Cedar City.  But reach here it did, as instrumentalists donned carnival masks as they dove into the festive fun.  (His own antic spirits running high, conductor Adam Lambert wore his mask backward, allowing its mischievous eyeholes to look out at the audience from the back of his head.)  The masks did not seem to interfere with the musicians’ joyfully performing their music, which they rendered in the high glee of slightly intoxicated revelers!   How could the audience resist such a fantastic romp?  No one tried.

Indeed, when Khachaturian’s last celebratory notes had died away, the audience rose to its feet to applaud the conductors, the orchestra, and especially the youthful new musicians brought into view by this concert.Yes, even the greatest stars must eventually pass from the glorious skies of classical music.  But this enchanting evening gave all present hope that the passing years will bring into those skies new constellations of talented stars—including the five gifted artists who took the stage at concert’s end for a well-deserved special bow.  

All who attended this concert left with renewed hopes for the future of classical music in Cedar City, and beyond, and with renewed appreciation for the conductors, for the musicians, and for the sponsors (June Thorley and the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation) who nurture such hopes.
Madison Marshall, viola: Janna Ostler, violin; Madison Davis, mezzo soprano; Tanisa Crosby, flute; and Jacob Lee, composer.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Building Harmony Around the World

Poster design by Rollan Fell
The Orchestra of Southern Utah’s 12th annual Children’s Jubilee “Building Harmony Around the World” will provide a family-friendly afternoon of music, art, science, and fun at the Heritage Center in Cedar City on Saturday, Feb. 21. Children of all ages are welcome.
The doors will open at 1:00 pm on February 21 for fun preshow activities and displays, and the concert begins at 2:00 p.m. Fun and educational activities will continue after the concert. Admission is $5 per person and babies are free. Attendees may receive one free ticket per family with donation of three cans of food for the Iron County Care and Share as part of the Orchestras Feeding America initiative.
Under the direction of conductor Xun Sun, the orchestra and talented soloists have prepared an afternoon of music sure to excite and amaze young ears. Featuring Halversen Young Artist competition winners Tanisa Crosby (Mozart flute concerto), Madison Davis (Gluck aria), and composer Jacob Lee the concert offers a unique opportunity for children to see soloists perform with the orchestra plus a world premiere of Casey Jones Overture by Jacob Lee. Carylee Zwang and Adam Lambert, assistant conductors, will also be directing the orchestra.
The Jubilee is a nationally recognized family event with awards from the League of American Orchestras. Melissa Leavitt, OSU Education Director, is also presenting assemblies at every Iron County Elementary School which will include soloists. "We want to let the students hear live music and are excited that some of the soloists will be sharing their talents at the schools," said Leavitt.
In addition to the OSU musicians there is an army of volunteers from the community and SUU who will be sharing hands-on activities including Cedar Music with instruments for the children to try and the SUU Animal Ambassadors with creatures from around the world. Usborne Books and the Frehner Museum of Natural History will have displays as well as a photography exhibit by Jim Case. Laura Cotts once again coordinated science activities with help from SUU professors and students, including Jon Karpel, Mackay Steffensen, John Taylor and Jennifer Hargrove. Ivy Kiley from SUU is coordinating art activities and the Cedar City Children’s Musical Theatre is helping with a lobby costume photo site. The Southern Utah Children’s Choir is serving as face painters. Roice and Andrea Nelson are sharing an instrument display from around the world. Jason Gottfried is playing lobby music, “Electric Kirtan”.
Boyd Redington will be
serving as the photographer for the event.
Major sponsors for this favorite winter event are Rocky Mountain Power Foundation and the George S. and Dolores Dore' Eccles Foundation. "This financial support is crucial in helping us keep the price accessible for as many families as possible," said Emily Hepworth, OSU Manager.
Join the Orchestra of Southern Utah for an adventure exploring the world of music, art and science on Feb. 21.

Melissa Leavitt, right, is the OSU Education Director and provides assemblies for nine elementary schools prior to the Jubilee as well as coordinating the displays and activities.  Live music for all assemblies.

Art for Saturday's Jubilee under the direction of Birgit Wudenka McMullen, artist and art teacher, at Gateway Preparatory Academy. We are excited to have the students involved.

Young Artists Shine on Feb. 19

Poster design by Rollan Fell
Article by Kirsten Beauchamp Butt  

The Orchestra of Southern Utah is excited to present the Roy L. Halversen Young Artists Concert “Harmonious Ambassadors” on Thursday, February 19th,, 7:30 p.m., at the Heritage Center in Cedar, 105 N. 100 East.  Featuring Tanisa Crosby, Madison Davis, Jacob Lee, Madison Marshall, and Janna Ostler, the concert will be an impressive showcase of performance and a world premiere of a new composition. 

June Thorley and the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation are the major sponsors for this celebration of young talent. 

Crosby, a Southern Utah University student, is currently pursuing a double major in English and Music.  She has played the flute for 12 years, and she enjoys sharing her passion for the instrument by tutoring others.  A current student of Dr. Virginia Stitt, Crosby continues to improve by taking private lessons and has participated in various ensembles, pit orchestras, and the SUU Band.  She will be performing the first movement of Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G. 

Davis, a sophomore Music major, is a member of Concert Choir and Opus.  In addition to choir, Davis also enjoys taking the stage in opera.  In the past, she has sung the parts of the Sorceress in Dido and Aeneas, Stepsister in Cinderella, and a St Bernard in The Stoned Guest.  She competed at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) Las Vegas Chapter and earned a third place finish, as well as an honorable mention at NATS Cal-Western Regionals.  She continues her education through lessons with Carol Ann Modesitt.  She aspires to attend graduate school and later open a studio of her own, where she can teach. She will be singing Che Faro Senza Euridice by Gluck. 

Lee, a senior Music major at Southern Utah University, has participated in a variety of groups and venues.  He has performed with collegiate ensembles, the Orchestra of Southern Utah, the Playmakers Association, and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.  Additionally, he has been featured at the Bumbleberry Theatre in Springdale, Utah and the Broadway Performance Hall in Seattle, Washington.  Also, while serving a two-year LDS mission, he performed on the piano throughout Croatia and Slovenia.  He is currently a member of the award-winning band, Apollo’s Army, and is studying piano under Dr. Christian Bohnenstengel and composition under Keith Bradshaw. The orchestra will be performing his original composition, Casey Jones Overture, as a world premiere.

Marshall, age 15, began studying music at the age of five.  A few years later, she became captivated by the viola and focused her efforts accordingly.  She has been a member of the Vivaldi Quartet, a multi-year Best of State award winner, since the age of eight. Twice, she has served as the principal violist for the Suzuki Youth Orchestra of the Americas in Minneapolis. She was a Utah Symphony Salute to Youth finalist in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and was awarded an Honorable Mention in three of those four years.  Currently, she performs with the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City and is pursuing a college degree.  She will be performing Theme and Variations by Alan Shulman (which is particularly fitting, as 2015 is the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth). 

Ostler, age 15, is a freshman at Tuacahn High School.  She has enjoyed performance from the young age of three, when she participated as an angel in Tuacahn’s Live Nativity. Later, at age seven, she was introduced to music and began taking lessons.  Now, a talented violinist, Ostler also enjoys playing viola and piano.  She is currently a member of student council, the National Honor Society, and the Titan Chamber Orchestra.  She has studied with Victoria Andrus, Jason Bonham, Tara Krysa, and currently Linda Ghidossi-DeLuca. She will be performing the first movement of the Concerto in G by Haydn.

The orchestra will also play two pieces by Aram Khachaturian: the famous waltz from his Masquerade Suite and the Sabre Dance, a thrilling movement from his ballet Gayane.  The concert will begin at 7:30 pm at the Heritage Theater.  Tickets are available at the Cedar City Heritage Theater Box Office by calling 435-865-2882 or online at   Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and $30 for groups up to 6.  Because evening concerts are recorded, it is requested that babies and children under the age of six not attend.  Children over the age of six are welcome at all OSU concerts with adult supervision.