Sunday, December 17, 2017

2017 Handel's Messiah with Orchestra of Southern Utah and Chorale

Thanks to everyone involved with the 2017 production
of Handel's "Messiah" oratorio in Cedar City. 

(Photos courtesy of Rollan Fell, Des and Sara Penny)

Some of this season's soloists with Chorale Director Jackie Riddle-Jackson and Conductor Xun Sun and Shane Pierce who travelled from St. George to sing in the Chorale.

Final bows after performance.

Alex and Taliah Byers

Thanks for cookies from Interfaith Alliance on Sunday.

Soloist Emily Dimond

Heritage Center's Dallen Olcott with OSU Manager Emily Hepworth

Lobby music on Monday with Accidental Brass

Heritage Center stage manager Lisa Cox with OSU Manager Emily Hepworth

Preparing for the Monday performance

Jackie Riddle-Jackson warming up the Chorale downstairs on Monday evening.

Sheri Butler is the Chorale Secretary and handles Chorale communications and Xun Sun, OSU Music Director

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Making Christmas Christmas with Handel’s Messiah

By Bryce Christensen

Writing about Handel’s Messiah, music critic Leonard Turnevicius asserted, “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a performance of the work.”  Fortunately, the hundreds gathered in Cedar City’s Heritage Center on the evenings of December 10th and 11th joyfully recognized that once again Christmas was Christmas as they thrilled to the magnificent strains of Handel’s masterpiece, performed for the 77th time in Cedar City.  Bringing together the vocal and instrumental talents of the Chorale and Orchestra of Southern Utah, this year’s rendition ratified the realty of the holiday for all who shared in it.
            Welcoming the audience, Orchestra President Harold Shirley promised a performance “approaching perfection,” a performance fully justifying the inclusion he noted of a printed program for the concert in the time capsule incorporated into the cornerstone of the newly dedicated Latter-day Saint Temple on Cedar City’s Leigh Hill.  The performances were indeed so marvelous that listeners might have forgiven Shirley for dropping the word “approaching” in characterizing them.
            The orchestra delivered nearly perfect sublimity in their offering of this Christmas-making music, that sublimity transporting the audience from the first majestic strains of the opening Overture.  Director Xun Sun conducted with such inspiring musical passion that listeners might well have supposed that in witnessing his ecstatic movements, they were seeing a modern David dancing once again before the sacred Ark of the Covenant.  In his opening remarks, Shirley identified Sun as a source of the orchestra’s energy.  And in these performances, that boundless source never once subsided, nor did the instrumentalists under Sun’s baton ever waver in delivering all that he asked of them.  The orchestra’s stirring musical instrumental mastery was, of course, most fully in the spotlight during the dignified opening Overture and the reflective Pastoral Symphony midway through Part I of the concert.  But the orchestra sustained that same impressive mastery while accompanying the Chorale’s vocal artists.
            The outpouring from these approximately 140 vocal artists swelled into a mighty river of celebratory sound in the irresistible choruses of this wonderful work.  Swept along by the currents of that river, listeners might well have recalled the aptness of the original 1742 review in the Dublin Review praising Handel’s work as a distillation of “The Sublime, the Grand, and the Tender, adapted to the most elevated, majestick and moving Words, conspired to transport and charm the ravished Heart and Ear."  Superlatives fail to describe the way the Chorale and Orchestra together gave Handel’s “majestick and moving Words” both the polish and precision earned through long hours of practice and the unmistakable authenticity of emotions born in that very moment. 
In the heart-piercing pathos of “Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs,” the exultant joy of “Unto Us a Child Is Born,” the laudatory exclamations of “Glory to God,” and the rapt reverence of “Worthy is the Lamb That Was Slain,” the Chorale and Orchestra gave easily recognized numbers a fresh brilliance.  And in bracing “Let Us Break Their Bonds Asunder,” singers and instrumentalists successfully ventured into a part of the oratorio often omitted from abridged performances of Handel’s great work.  
The performance of the Chorale so amazed listeners that when they rose to their feet for the “Hallelujah!” Chorus, they did so with an alacrity suggestive of more than venerable tradition. 
Complementing the excellence of the entire Chorale in performing the choruses was the praiseworthy merit of the solos rendered by the concerts’ eleven soloists, all deserving of favorable mention.
Alto Krysten Tomlinson delivered the recitative “Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive” in the tones a celestial dulcimer before seamlessly segueing the more vigorous measures of “O Thou That Tellest.”
Soprano Leslie Perkins demonstrated comparable interpretive versatility in singing “There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field,” “And the Angel Said Unto Them,” and “And Suddenly There Was With The Angel,” her voice so luminous in the final number that listeners could easily have supposed that Perkins herself qualified for inclusion in the heavenly host announcing glad tidings to the astonished shepherds. 
In notes of transcendent rapture, soprano Terri Metcalf-Peterson riveted listeners with “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion!”
In deftly modulated measures Alto Brook Allredge captured the emotional import of her scriptural texts in singing “Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Opened” and “He Shall Feed His Flock Like a Shepherd,” listeners sharing fully in the wonder of the first, the comfort of the second. 
Soprano Kristina Maggio gave compelling voice in “Come Unto Me” to the divine love that pleads with erring mortals, urging them to return to the supernal source of forgiveness and healing.
Lambent with gratitude, soprano Jaclyn Thomas rendered the air “How Beautiful Are the Feet” with unforgettable fervor.
And with a voice luminous with conviction, soprano Emily Diamond illuminated the priceless linkage between Christmas and Easter in her rendition of “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.” 
Among the male vocal soloists, Ethan McBride left a lasting impression as a young talent already poised and fully in command of his exceptional artistic power.  In performing the recitative “Comfort Ye My People” and the air “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted,” McBride dazzled the audience with a voice at once strong and supple, delivering even the most challenging passages with effortless grace.
Likewise astounding as a young male vocalist was baritone Alex Byers, who amazed listeners with his masterful rendering of “Thus Saith the Lord,” “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?” and “Why Do the Nations so Furiously Rage Together?”   Delivering prophetic authority in the first, a probingly introspection in the second, and perplexed wonderment in the third, Byers left no doubt as to his artistic gifts.
Manifesting the confidence of a seasoned vocal veteran, tenor Shane Pierce invited listeners into the circle of light cast by his vocal lamp as he visited empyreal regions in “He that Dwelleth in Heaven” and galvanized those listeners with the rigor of “Thou Shalt Break Them.” 
Another experienced and mature performer, bass Richard Waldron plumbed the depths of a redemptive miracle in “Behold, I Tell You a Mystery,” his voice of forged steel plunging into the very shadow of death, before emerging in the dawning of Resurrection.  And in “The Trumpet Shall Sound,” Waldron sharpened his voice to a soul-piercing point, a lance that pierced unbelief with testimony of divine truth.  Augmenting the overwhelming force of this penultimate number, trumpeter Richard McMaster made his virtuosity with his brass instrument an arresting complement to Waldron’s skill with his voice. 
Chorale director Jackie Riddle-Jackson deserves high praise for preparing the singers under her direction for such an outstanding performance.  As the relative numbers of female and male singers in the Chorale as a whole and among the soloists made evident, finding talented male vocalists can prove more challenging than finding talented female vocalists.  But Riddle-Jackson is meeting this challenge, with the presence among the male soloists of two quite young luminaries indicating that she is doing so in ways that promise similarly favorable experiences for Messiah-lovers in the years ahead.   
And though bankers and insurance brokers may not take to the stage to sing, the State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group merit the gratitude of all who attended this admission-free concert courtesy of these sponsors’ generosity.  These are sponsors who smash the negative stereotype of Scrooge-like business executives: these are community benefactors using their resources to allow all to experience music that truly does make Christmas Christmas.     

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Harold Shirley and Suzanne Tegland Honored at Utah Philanthropy Day

Present Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson with former Mayor Harold Shirley.

Diane and Harold Shirley with Dialea Shirley Adams and Eric Adams before the presentations
Suzanne Tegland was honored with Heart and Hands Award.

Thanks to the Cedar City people who came to the awards banquet.

Before the banquet the staff was unveiling their huge gingerbread house at Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake.

OSU President Harold Shirley receiving the Public Service Award.
Suzanne Tegland coming forward for her volunteerism award

Last of the fall flowers outside

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Symphonic Sorcery

By Bryce Christensen
“Music acts like a magic key,” remarked Maria von Trapp, “to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”   The magical heart-opening power of music manifested itself in marvelous ways at Cedar City’s Heritage Center the night of November 9th, as the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) welcomed a large Chorale to perform a concert on the theme of “The Magic of Mozart.”  Recently named as the 2017 recipient of the Lieutenant Governor’s Public Service Award, OSU President articulated the theme of the evening in opening remarks in which he promised the exceptionally large audience a program alive with the “sorcery of sound,” albeit a sorcery wrought through the conductor’s baton rather than the wizard’s wand.

From the very first number, the audience indeed felt that beneficent sorcery.  With the inspiring passion that has characterized his directing style ever since his appointment as OSU’s Music Director and Conductor in 2003, Xun Sun opened the evening with Mozart’s “Overture to The Marriage of Figaro.”  A vibrant number that showcased the entire orchestra’s polished talents, this Mozart masterpiece shone with particular luster because of deft short solos by bassoonist Julie Kluber, clarinetist Sarah Solberg, oboist Patrice Ramsey, and flutist Ariel Rhodes.  Kluber’s mellow warmth perfectly complemented Solberg’s brighter and more incisive notes.  And the musical palette grew even more complete with the penetrating clarity flowing through Ramsey’s instrument and the silvery filigree provided by Rhodes. 

Much of the puckishly mischievous magic emanating from the evening’s second number—“Non so piu cosa son,” from Act 1 of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro—came through the impish but beguiling voice of mezzo soprano Lindsey Lopez.  Singing in the persona of a libidinous and irresponsible teenage boy,  Lopez perfectly conveyed the adolescent petulance of this naughty young rogue, her voice (and gestures) charming an audience amused by the peevish perplexity of a hormone-driven young male somehow surprised that his reckless behavior keeps landing him in trouble.

The magic of the evening’s third number—Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra in G Major­—modulated from that of comic playfulness to symphonic brilliance.  And though the orchestra proved itself more than equal to the challenge of conjuring magic through this masterful composition, the enchantress casting the truly irresistible spell was flute soloist Adrienne Tedjamulia Read.  Through her flawlessly executed trills and her sparkling rapid scales, the sound from her instrument so bewitched the audience that those listening gladly surrendered to its dazzling presence as its coruscating luminosity darted here and there like a fugitive sunbeam. 

After intermission, the orchestra welcomed to the stage an impressive composite Chorale of 180 voices, prepared for the evening by OSU Chorale Director Jackie Riddle-Jackson.  This wonderfully large ensemble of vocal talent brought together singers from Canyon View High School’s A Cappella Choir (directed by Alex Byers), Southern Utah University’s Opus Choir (directed by Krystal McCoy), In Jubilo Women’s Choir (directed by Jackie Riddle-Jackson), and the OSU Chorale.  As these talented voices joined with the OSU instrumentalists to perform Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, they delivered a work akin to magic in that it transcended rational understanding, surely a work exercising the heart-opening power van Trapp identifies as a magical attribute of music.  Still, the label magic­ does not truly apply to this Mozart meisterwerk, a composition too powerful, too profound, ultimately too sacred and holy to bear that label. 

Masterfully directing this soul-stirring number was guest conductor Dr. Ryan Murphy, associate director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a choir intimately familiar with sacred and holy music.  A commanding presence on the podium, Murphy wove choir and orchestra into a majestic musical tapestry, vocalists and instrumentalists in flawless harmony both in the intense passages conveying the fearful wrath of an offended God and the softer measures suggestive of the humble pleading of devout penitents.  Every voice, every instrumentalist deserves praise for this unforgettable musical outpouring. 

But five soloists truly shone on this night of exceptional music: In dark and taut solo measures, Michelle Lambert made her trombone a voice of haunting poignancy.  And what Lambert did with her artistically crafted brass tube, soloist Alex Byers did with his own powerful vocal cords, his deep-toned bass voice plumbing fathomless profundities.  Likewise moving was tenor Lawrence Johnson, his rich solos redolent with plangent pathos.  Listeners had further reasons to rejoice when the spotlight shifted to alto Taliah Byers, whose solos radiated the supernal hopes that sustain faith.  Completing the complement of outstanding vocal soloists, Terri Metcalf-Peterson transported listeners above the empyrean, into the realm of the angels, on her soaring soprano voice.

On a night dedicated to “The Magic of Mozart,” concert-goers relished astonishing musical magic—and more than magic.  In a concert that ranged from humorous light opera to somber religious devotion, OSU and the Chorale achieved excellence that would make a city of half a million swell with pride.  Residents of Cedar City can only marvel—and give thanks—for such incomprehensible musical wealth.  All of the musicians on the stage deserved the prolonged standing ovation the audience gave on this Thursday night.  Also meriting applause were the evening’s sponsors: In Jubilo and the George S. and Delores DorĂ© Eccles Foundation.   These sponsors could not have given the community more if they had found a Philosopher’s Stone. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Mozart Concert Photos and Response

Photo from balcony by Seegmiller family.

Harold Shirley, OSU President, introduces the music.

Thanks to Heritage Center ushers and staff

OSU Manager Emily Hepworth and her friend Jennifer Maxwell provided pre-concert lobby music.

Teresa Redd, rehearsal and concert keyboard

Laura Bird backstage warming up by concert roses.

Julie Kluber and Shanan Arslanian warming up before the concert.

Ellie Seegmiller is one of our newest OSU musicians, warming up on viola.
OSU Music Director Xun Sun directing the "Overture to Marriage of Figaro"
Dr. Xun Sun

Lindsey Lopez, mezzo-soprano soloist

Adrienne Tedjamulia Read, flute soloist
Dr. Ryan Murphy, guest director for Requiem

Soloists: Terri Metcalf-Peterson, Taliah Byers, Lawrence Johnson, and Alex Byers

Recognizing Jackie Riddle-Jackson at the end of the concert.
Thanks to everyone involved in the massive undertaking.  We appreciate all of you.  
CDs and DVDs available:

A couple of the written responses:

Hello Alex and Chorale leaders,
Last night's performance of the Requiem was spectacular!  It was one of the best choral performances I have ever heard.  The acoustics were great, the singers knew their stuff.  The performance was expressive, compelling and technically perfect, as far as I could tell.  And the orchestra did it's part well.

Earlier I had hoped to sing with you but I just couldn't make the rehearsals.  Only my son Devon in Acapella Choir represented our family.  However in a way I'm glad because I got to sit back and hear it.  

The singing was full of that beautiful chiaroscuro ringing sound, great balance powerful dynamics.  Great expressiveness.  I cannot think of one aspect of the singing that could have been better.  The soloists were also amazing.  And even when singing together the sound of harmony was sweet.  That can be hard to do with soloists singing in full voice.  Alex, since I know you personally, let me say that even though I have heard you sing before, you surprised me by the great bass resonance and masterful quality of your performance.  

I have never written a gushing letter like this before, but I just thought you deserved to know my experience in the audience.  This performance absolutely exceeded my expectations.  The announcer was right that this would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  For me it was, and I am very glad I didn't miss it!

Thank you for all of your hard work that it took to make it happen!  Please pass my comments on to Jackie and the others who were so vital to last night's performance of Mozart's Requiem.
 Kind regards,
Dave Thomas

Dear All,
What a wonderful past few days, and so transformative for both choir and orchestra!!!
It has been a night of reflection and a morning of thought.
So many people have texted and emailed their thoughts of this venture, all have been positive, all have been encouraging and many have wondered how we were able to bring in someone like Ryan Murphy.

Because of so many who have worked to make this happen, it was successful and it was fun, because Ryan Murphy is who he is, because he is generous and willing to work with everyone it helped to create an environment of learning and confidence for all. His preparation was astounding we felt that he knew what he wanted and where he was taking us, that was a learning lesson for me especially. The choir and orchestra responded and grew in a few short days more than was truly imaginable, it was successful.

 Emily made so many efforts to create space for us to rehearse in and to insure that both choir and orchestra were well taken care of.  Sara worked to have advertising that met the needs of what it takes to advertise an event in Cedar City,
Rollan was tireless in creating posters and programs even though the process was trying because we were so demanding:). Sheri, Judy and Harold helped to make sure that any need from food to gift baskets and so much more like scores and details were all taken care of. Jason of the Heritage and his staff are true professionals and they help us to shine, even when we aren't perfect.

Teresa Redd worked tirelessly to play very difficult music, she was able to see this process through and to keep her wits about her under some personal difficult family challenges.
Melissa and Suzanne stepped in and were there for everything that is needed, they are minutemen (women) that I can call on to take care of things that would seem impossible in the moment, like seating and things that others cannot see, they do it with grace and tact, those are truly great qualities to have.

It took the generosity of the other conductors, Xun Krystal and Alex to work through difficult passages and unfamiliar text and tempos that are unrelenting and pushy, not to mention just plain hard.

And again, Ryan! wow! it would not have been a possibility if you had not been willing to sacrifice time, work and family and then the unknowing of what we would be and where we would have to go to create some great music, we are truly blessed by your ability and preparation and willingness.

My husband in his text to me last night wrote the following:
"It clearly took a lot of work for both the orchestra and the choir!  Neither one has ever done that piece and will not likely do it again!  The Mozart Requiem has an ethereal quality to it that transcends the players performance!  Terri's very bright and pure pitch reflected that as much as anything against the backdrop of that choir, who being made up of students and townspeople, made heaven sing!  It isn't Bach's B minor, and it doesn't have tone themes of Brahms or the dramatic flare of Verdi, but it does have the very sobering introspection of a young talented artist dying before his time and the genius of turning music into the solace of that last great mystery no man but one has solved!"

My sincere and deep appreciation to all of you for all you have done to create something that will be a great memory for so many, and not only a memory but a growing experience that we could not have gotten any other way.

Jackie Riddle-Jackson