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