Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Merry Christmas from Your Orchestra: Photos from Handel's "Messiah" Performance 2016

Thanks to everyone involved in our 76th presentation this Dec.:  onstage, backstage, support team, and audience. (Photos courtesy of Rollan Fell, Pam Gilbert, Amanda Clark Photography, and OSU Musicians)
Thanks to the Heritage Theater staff and ushers.
OSU President Harold Shirley honors June Thorley for her service to OSU and music.

OSU Director Xun Sun, Chorale Director Jackie Riddle-Jackson, and soloists with the flower girls at the end of the performance.

Interfaith group provided lovely cookies after the performances.

Lobby music for Monday with Handbell Choir

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Moment of Sublime Clarity: Handel’s Messiah

by Bryce Christensen
"Christmas can be a maze of commercialism if we let it,” the Protestant pastor David Jeremiah has remarked. “Instead, let's make it a moment of clarity in which we view our sometimes confusing and threatening world against the back drop of God's gift to us: the Prince of Peace who was announced by angels on that original 'midnight clear.’" For two marvelous evenings—December 11th and December 12th—all of the confusing distractions of commercialism gave way to the blessed clarity of sacred truth for those who gathered in Cedar City’s Heritage Center to share in the city’s 76th production of the Handel’s Messiah, performed by the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) and the Southern Utah Chorale (SUC).  As the latest installment in OSU’s Legacy ’16-’17 Season--devoted to commemorating the diverse legacies that inspire and sustain symphonic music--this performance tapped into what is surely the deepest legacy of all: the “Sacred Legacy” of faith and worship.
Indeed, in his welcoming remarks, OSU President Harold Shirley promised the capacity audience that they would hear “musical testimony” of divine truth, drawn from Scripture, set to music through the creative genius of George Frideric Handel, and performed by a talented ensemble of local musicians, instrumental and vocal.  But before leaving the stage so the performance could begin, Shirley honored long-time OSU member June Thorley—a performer in 74 of Cedar City’s performances of the Messiah—by announcing the establishment of a special scholarship fund at Southern Utah University in Thorley’s name, in recognition of her singular contribution to orchestral music in the community.  In further recognition of Thorley’s exceptional personal contribution to Cedar City’s local legacy of music, Shirley ceremonially retired her violin bow.  
But even as OSU gratefully and appreciatively retired one of its longtime members, it welcomed back its much-loved director and conductor, Xun Sun, returning from a sabbatical absence to take up the baton for a composition he has repeatedly conducted with great fervor in the past.  And Sun was in keen form for this year’s rendition of Handel’s masterpiece, his consummate musicianship evident when the orchestra commanded the spotlight (in the majestic opening Overture and the more tranquil Pastoral Symphony), when the orchestra sensitively accompanied soloists, and finally when the orchestra fused its entire musical resources with those of the Chorale in the irresistible choral selections.  Sun’s inspiring personal investment in this number was especially manifest in his dynamic conducting of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” a thrilling outpouring of soulful ecstasy.  
Though down a bit in size from last year, the Chorale lived up to the expectations that had filled the concert hall, delivering powerful collective renditions of well-known numbers essential to this holy-day observance—including the exultant “And the Glory of the Lord,” the empyreal “Glory to God,” the awe-instilling “Behold the Lamb of God,” the bracingly muscular “Since by Man Came Death,” and finally the stirringly reverential “Worthy Is the Lamb That Was Slain.”  Those gathered for the concert rejoiced to hear these familiar numbers, but also welcomed the opportunity to hear one choral selection—“Their Sound Is Gone Out”--often passed over in the now-standard abridged performance format for this very long oratorio.
Despite the reduction in the overall size of the choir, the number of soloists performing in this year’s Messiah remained steady at ten, through the number of male soloists dropped to just three.  The female soloists swelled slightly in number to compensate for the drop in the number of male soloists and were truly dazzlingly in their virtuosity.  Listeners noted with great pleasure that the soloists included some impressive new voices who promise to delight audiences for years to come.  
On the male side, tenor Mark O. Leavitt delivered the recitative “Comfort Ye My People” with tender grace before transitioning to the more strenuous air “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted.”
As the second male soloist, bass Jay Merryweather gave sinewy strength to the recitative “Thus Saith the Lord” and authoritative firmness to “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming? ”
As the final male soloist, bass Jason Clark plumbed profound spiritual depths in his recitative “Behold, I Tell You a Mystery” before galvanizing his voice in the clarion notes of “The Trumpet Shall Sound.” Joining Clark on this number, instrumentalist Adam Lambert made the radiant brilliance of his trumpet the perfect complement to Clark’s deep tones.
As the first of the female soloists, Ashley Stoddard Carlile performed the recitative “Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive” with a voice of liquid gold, mesmerizingly luminous, that voice then swelling to a joyous effusion in “O Thou That Tellest.”
“There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field” became an irruption of the miraculous in the penetratingly beautiful soprano voice of Brandi Hall, who kept her listeners suspended in heavenly heights for “And the Angel Said Unto Them.”
Listeners found celestial comfort in the measures of “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd,’ perfectly modulated in the alto voice of Rylee Dalton, and then felt the enticings of divine concern in the searchingly compassionate voice of soprano Leslie Perkins’ “Come Unto Me.”
Alto Kalina Stokes interpreted “He Was Despised” with poignant pathos born of heart-rending sorrow at the price Christ paid to redeem a fallen human race.
Conveying a dramatically contrasting mood, Terri Metcalf-Peterson overflowed with transcendent gratitude in “How Beautiful Are the Feet,” her soprano voice vibrant with exalted astonishment at the good news the Lord’s evangelists bring.
And with the supernal conviction of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth,” Debra Stillman made her marvelous soprano voice a conduit for the holy hope that links Christmas with Easter.  
SUC Director Jackie Riddle-Jackson deserves high praise for preparing the Chorale and the soloists to meet the diverse and daunting challenges presented by this multifaceted number, and to do so in seamless harmony with the orchestra.  
Director Xun Sun and all the musicians who performed beneath his baton likewise merit such praise for coming together in such a wonderfully memorable reunion of conductor and orchestra.

The executives of the State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt group likewise deserve praise for sponsoring this event, so showing that some enlightened leaders of commerce still know how to help the entire community find its way out of “the maze of commercialism” during this season of the year.     

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sacred Legacy: OSU Presents 76th “Messiah” in Cedar City

Artwork "Be Unto Me" by Liz Lemon Swindle

New Feature for Sunday only:
“Musically Speaking” at 6:15 p.m.: Kim Peterson and Susan Allman (pre-concert talk), in Festival Hall, Room 1, upstairs

Lobby Music provided by The Southern Utah Handbell Choir (Sunday) and Harry Taylor on piano (Monday) begins at 6:45 in the lobby.
The Orchestra of Southern Utah invites you to usher in the Christmas season with the 76th annual performance of Handel’s Messiah in Cedar City. Come enjoy this holiday tradition completely free of charge! Xun Sun directs this centerpiece of the Christmas season.

Performances are held on December 11th and 12th . The doors open both evenings at 6:45, and the audience is asked to be seated by 7:15, at which time empty seats will be released to those waiting. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m.

The performances are funded by the generous sponsorships of the State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group and are performed with the volunteer service of the orchestra and chorale. As a result, admission is free! Tickets are required and are available at the Heritage Center/Festival Hall office—105 North 100 East in Cedar City during regular business hours. Office is on southwest corner of building. Attendees are encouraged to collect their tickets in advance, as a full house is expected for both performances.

Soloists chosen by audition include Mark O. Leavitt, Jay Merryweather, Ashlee Stoddard Carlile, Kalina Stokes, Leslie Perkins,Terri Metcalf-Peterson, Debra Stillman, and Jason Clark. Soloist Rylee Dalton is a previous R. L. Halversen youth soloist with OSU.

Handel’s Messiah, written in 1741, tells the story of the Christ in three chapters corresponding to His birth, death, and resurrection. The oratorio takes its audience on an emotional and spiritual journey, inspiring awe with the famous “Hallelujah Chorus,” and ending with a reverent and uplifting series of “amen.”

The first performance of Handel’s Messiah in Cedar City was held on New Year’s Day in 1925. Beginning in 1940, it became an annual winter tradition. Originally performed by Southern Utah University (then called the Branch Agricultural College), the Orchestra of Southern Utah has since taken up the mantle.

Chorale Director Jackie Riddle-Jackson said, “This important work of Oratorio proclaims to all that there is hope and joy and great life giving moments ahead, that is why Messiah still remains a relevant and heralded message of Sacred Legacy.” The community Chorale has been rehearsing since October and includes a wide range of ages and professions.

Lobby music starts at 6:45 with Southern Utah Handbell Choir on Sunday and pianist Harry Taylor on Monday.

Children over six are welcome with adult supervision. No babies or younger children please as the performances are recorded.
For more information, please visit, call the Orchestra of Southern Utah at (435) 233-8213, or email

What: 76th Performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in Cedar City
When: Sunday and Monday, Dec. 11 and 12
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Where: Heritage Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City
Cost: Free, but tickets required. Available at Heritage Center/Festival Hall (Pick up limit of 4 at a time)
Who: Orchestra of Southern Utah and Chorale directed by Xun Sun and Jackie-Riddle Jackson

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Exciting and Busy Autumn for Your Orchestra

Heather Wilhelm, OSU concertmaster performed solo for Fall by Vivaldi on Nov. 10 concert.
Jim Harrison provided instruction to the concert.

 Pam Minkler serves as one of OSU's business liaisons

Concert photos below by Mitchell Quartz from SUU University Journal.  Article and photo link:

 Adam Lambert conducts Nov. concert

 Heather Wilhelm, soloist for Vivaldi's "Autumn"

 Ben Tufte, contrabass

 Terri Metcalf Peterson and Jackie Riddle Jackson perform "Flower Song" by Delibes

OSU Cello and Contrabass section, concert photos by Mitchell Quartz, SUU University Journal

Melissa Leavitt and OSU musicians 
helped students explore sound
at SUU Steam Festival

Melissa Leavitt helps students explore sound at SUU STEAM Festival

Birgit McMullin helped OSU

Violinist Rebekah Hughes at STEAM Festival

Cellist Leah Brown assisting students in making reeds.

Violinist Kaer Neumann at STEAM Festival

Sunday, November 13, 2016

“Pleasure in the Pathless Woods”: Celebrating the Harmonies of Nature

By Bryce Christensen

Enraptured by “a pleasure in the pathless woods,” enfolded in “a rapture on the lonely shore,” Lord Byron swore that when he stood by “the deep sea,” he heard “music in its roar.”  “I love not man the less,” he declared, “but Nature more.”  Something of Byron’s poetic appreciation for the compelling music pervading nature animated both performers and listeners in Cedar City’s Heritage Center on November 10th, when the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) performed a concert on the theme of “Natural Legacy” as the second installment of a season devoted to exploring the theme of Musical Legacy.

In his opening remarks, OSU President Harold Shirley invited listeners weary of the harsh cacophony of recent politics into “Nature’s Haven.”  And for an hour and half, the audience welcomed that invitation and enjoyed that much-needed haven. 

With OSU Director and Conductor Xun Sun still on sabbatical leave, assistant conductor Dr. Adam Lambert took the podium as the evening’s conductor.  And just as Carylee Zwang did for OSU’s October American Legacy concert, Lambert evidenced impressive mastery of the music on the program, leading the musicians under his baton with authoritative poise and confidence.  It can only please Cedar City’s music lovers that OSU is developing musical talent not only in the ranks of its skilled instrumentalists but also in its much-smaller cadre of conductors.

As a musical canvas that records the splendors of nature throughout the year, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons certainly deserved its place as the opening number of this evening’s program.  Given the calendaring of this particular concert and given the way Vivaldi captures with particular poignancy the rich beauties of a season at once exciting and melancholy, it was apt that OSU chose to perform the Fall segment of this wonderful composition. 

To be sure, the Nature that Vivaldi visits—particularly in the lively first movement of Fall—seems rather distant from the pathless woods of raw Nature that inspired the Romantic Byron.  The Nature Vivaldi initially carries listeners into seems to be the Nature surrounding a regal dance in an exquisitely ordered ornamental garden of the sort that pleased 18th century aristocrats and neoclassical poets.  While listening to Vivaldi’s perfectly crafted musical phrases, listeners may indeed have thought of the neoclassical poet Alexander Pope’s high regard for “Nature to advantage dressed.”  And the advantageous dress that Vivaldi gives to Nature is precisely the kind of becoming dress that elegant 18th-century dancers might have worn as they executed a high energy haute dance in a perfectly manicured garden of shrubs and trees and late-blooming flowers. 

But the second movement modulates into pensive and reflective passages, suggestive of a seasonal sense of loss and muted sadness, an autumnal awareness that the life that animated spring and summer is ending. Vivaldi here gives listeners a feel for a season of falling leaves and fatal frosts.    
Listeners could only appreciate—even marvel at—the way guest violin soloist Heather Wilhelm (OSU’s gifted Concertmaster) transitioned from technically demanding measures of dazzling rapidity in the opening movement to the nuanced tenderness of the more languid second movement—and then transitioned again to the tight cadencing of a concluding movement reprising the sprightliness of the opening movement.  

Highlighting the brilliance of Wilhelm’s performance, the orchestra as a whole engaged in a dynamic musical dialogue with the soloist, with cellist Leah Brown emerging as a secondary soloist in this beautiful back-and-forth.

As those in the audience listening to this masterful performance of Vivaldi’s work, they may have realized anew why this pungent season of the year has inspired deeply evocative poetry by Keats, Pushkin, and Du Fu, poetry reflecting the deep emotions that well up in the heart of those who experience Nature when summer passes into fall. 

The evening’s second number shifted from the stylized Nature of Europe’s formal gardens to the exotic Nature of 19th century India, depicted in the “Flower Duet,” a marvelous opening-act vocal number from Léo Delibes’ Lakmé.  In this richly expressive song, the title character (the daughter of a Brahmin priest) joins her servant Mallika in gathering riverside flowers, hoping to find in the riparian life—song birds and swans surrounded by jasmine, roses and lotuses -- some respite from fears about Lakmé’s father, threatened in the ritual practice of his Hindu faith by the incursion of British imperialists.

Guest vocalists Jackie Riddle-Jackson and Terri Metcalf-Peterson combined their voices in mesmerizing fashion in performing this number.   When singing alone, both sopranos Riddle-Jackson and Metcalf-Peterson compellingly conveyed the pathos and passion of Delibes’ artistry.  But when they fused their voices in singing together, the tightly knit ethereal harmonies were utterly irresistible. 
After the intermission, the orchestra returned from the Nature of India to the Nature of Europe.  But in performing Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, his Pastoral Symphony, the orchestra was hardly returning to Vivaldi’s royal gardens.  With Beethoven as their guide, listeners rambled through Europe’s rural countryside, perhaps not pristine wilderness, but still a natural setting only partially under human cultivation.  As the opening stanzas of this beguiling number introduce the infectious refrain that will surface again and again, listeners soon catch the lilt and trill of birdsong, the babble of brooks, the swelling of river currents, and the stirring of pleasant zephyrs. 

The nature Beethoven conjures in this magical number is hardly devoid of human life.  But the humans who appear are those humans most attuned to Nature’s deep-down primal forces: they are the peasant farmers and shepherds whose celebratory revels give the third and fifth movements their joyous tenor.  To be sure, both natural serenity and human delight must yield when, in the fourth movement, the thunder of an awe-inspiring storm erupts.  But rustic bliss and Arcadian calm return in the soothing tranquility of the restorative conclusion.

A praiseworthy collective achievement melding the talents of string, wind, brass, and percussion instrumentalists, this performance of Beethoven’s great composition will long sweeten the memories of all who shared in it.  Shining out of the overall excellence of the performance, a number of short but laudable solos in this final number deserve mention, with Brad Gregory coaxing penetrating tones from his oboe, Adrienne Read drawing filigreed luminescence from her flute, Pete Atkins plumbing shadowed profundities with his French horn, and Lydia Field summoning rumbling power from her timpani. 

In performing an entire symphony as complex and challenging as this iconic masterpiece, the Orchestra of Southern Utah has again demonstrated its artistic strength and maturity.  To be sure, the attentive listener heard a few small wobblings in the performance.  But why obsess over trivial blemishes in a musical canvas this large and majestic?  Better by far to risk a minor defect here and there than to settle for the safety of a truncated work of only a movement or two.  By performing this masterwork in toto and by playing it perhaps not perfectly but extremely well, Dr. Lambert and the orchestra have given the music lovers of Cedar City a new reason to give thanks for the tradition OSU is building. 

And part of the thanks for an evening opening a multi-faceted perspective on the treasures of Nature properly goes to the George S. and Delores Doré Eccles Foundation, a sponsor or this delightful evening of music.  Such generous support of the arts enriches the entire community. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Musical Favorites Captures a Natural Legacy!

(poster design by Rollan Fell)

Written by Kristin Beauchamp-Butt

As the mountains and parks around Cedar City color with the glory of fall, the Orchestra of Southern Utah presents Natural Legacy on November 10. The concert, filled with the imagery of powerful storms, peaceful streams, and beautiful landscapes, features music themed around the great outdoors. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Heritage Theater and is conducted by Adam Lambert.

Nature has long inspired the works of artists the world over. Beethoven enjoyed walks in the countryside and immortalized his experiences with his Sixth Symphony. The challenging piece is performed in its entirety, allowing the listener to stroll alongside as the mood shifts from the cheerful enthusiasm of entering the fresh air of the country, to the restful pause of a moment beside a brook, to the exuberance of a dance that is ended by a thunderstorm, and finally to thankful relief with the passing of the storm.

With consistent request from audience members, Vivaldi’s highly popular Autumn from The Four Seasons will be performed. The Four Seasons are Vivaldi’s most successful composition and, at time of publication, included poems to be presented alongside the music. The poems assist the audience in visualizing the elements of each season that Vivaldi sought to convey. Heather Wilhelm performs the violin solo. Wilhelm is an active performer with the group Wilhelm, serves as OSU concertmistress, and teaches a large studio of violin students.

The beautiful Flower Duet by Léo Delibes captures one of the loveliest melodies of the Romantic era. The piece originates from his opera, Lakmé, and is performed as two women collect flowers along a riverbank. Jackie Jackson and Terri Metcalf Petersen sing the familiar duet. Both are active vocal soloists and teachers. Jackson teaches at SUU and Dixie University in addition to directing In Jubilo and the Chorale for OSU. Petersen teaches voice at Dixie University and has been a soloist with OSU in previous concerts.

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. For more information, please visit, call the Orchestra of Southern Utah at (435) 233-8213, or email

Pre-concert lecture at 7:00 with Dr. James Harrison.

Preview music with links at

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fall OSU Photos 2016

Recitals, major concert, and more this fall.  Thank you to everyone involved with the Orchestra of Southern Utah as a musician, patron, or sponsor. Thanks also to the technical staff at the Heritage Center.  We're working on Beethoven and Vivaldi for the Nov. 10 concert, but here are a few photos from fall 2016 by Pam Gilbert and OSU musicians.

OSU Education Director Melissa Leavitt with OSU President Harold Shirley
October 13 Concert:

Hen Hao Fiddlers provided lobby music and played in the concert.

4th Grade VIP passes allow students to discover live orchestra music.
Cedar High Advanced Orchestra

Tom Herb directs SUU Jazz Band

Suzanne Tegland with Heritage Center Stage Manager Lisa Cox

Concert Patrons

Rehearsals for October Concert: 

Combined OSU and CHS Advanced Orchestra in rehearsal.

Catching up during break

Christina Carrigan conducting combined orchestras

Community Service performances are common for OSU musicians.  Here are just a couple of examples:

Westwind Trio at Artisans for Final Friday event

Brooke MacNaughtan and Nina Hansen performed prelude music for the Gerald Sherratt's Memorial Service.
 Recital Photos from Fall series:

Thanks again to everyone who participates in OSU: onstage, in the audience, backstage, and support staff.  It takes a team to keep the music live and we appreciate all of you.