Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Easter in December: Concert Review

By Bryce Christensen

“Christmas,” as Duke professor C. Kavin Rowe remarks, “. . . requires Easter. . . . Easter--the resurrection--is why Christmas is Christmas.”  And no celebration of Christmas more compellingly links these two holidays—these two holy days—than does the marvel that is Handel’s Messiah.  On December 9th and 10th, the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) and the Orchestra of Southern Utah Chorale renewed the profound linkage between the two holidays with masterful performances of Handel’s masterpiece, the apt theme “A Magnificent Story” pointing concert-goers to a sacred scriptural story beginning in a stable in Bethlehem and ending—no, not ending­—in a tomb outside Jerusalem.

In his welcoming remarks, OSU President Harold Shirley invited those in attendance to join in recognizing the more-than-human significance of the celebratory performances as “our gift to the King.”  Repeatedly, the wonderful music that followed indeed strengthened faith in the Heavenly King who, as the Christmas babe, lay sleeping in a manger crib, but who, as the Easter Lord, rose triumphant from his sepulchral bed.  How fitting that this concert dedicated to the memory of two former OSU violinists, Judith Spender Larsen and Mary MacDonald, should stir supernal hope of redemption from death!

From the majestic opening strains of the “Overture,” to the overwhelming Amens of the final Chorus, “Worthy Is the Lamb That Was Slain,” two hundred chorale and orchestra musicians carried listeners along this inspiring journey from Christmas to Easter, filling the hearts of all in attendance with a double measure of  holiday spirit.

OSU director Xun Sun deserves high praise for so superbly preparing the 64 musicians under his baton to deliver almost two hours of exquisite music, thrillingly rendered.  A positively ecstatic presence on the director’s podium, Sun signaled by his impassioned gestures his own complete investment in the music he was leading. Though entirely instrumental at some points—most notably, in the “Overture” and the “Pastoral Symphony”--that music served as complement and accompaniment most of the evening to the splendid vocal music of the chorale.  And though she was less visible than Maestro Sun, Chorale director Jackie Riddle-Jackson merits no less favorable recognition, particularly for her labors in selecting fifteen soloists and then assigning the two dozen recitatives and airs so that all shone with impressive brilliance in their performance.

With the poise of a singer well seasoned as a Messiah soloist, tenor Lawrence Johnson began the evening’s solos by delivering “Comfort Ye My People” with moving emotion, before rendering “Every Valley Shall Be Exalted” with the exalted sense of a prophetic visionary.  Likewise familiar to Cedar City audiences as a Messiah  soloist, baritone Alex Byers conveyed a sense of unshakeable conviction from the very first note of “Thus Saith the Lord,” before his powerful voice articulated searching questions in “But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming?” calling mortals to the deep self-scrutiny.

Her voice tremulous with expectation, mezzo soprano Valerie Wainwright revisited messianic hopes in “Behold! A Virgin Shall Conceive,” before seamlessly segueing into the joyous imperatives of “O Thou That Tellest.”  With something of the seraphic in her own beautiful soprano voice, Jessie Byers carried listeners to a scene of angelic choirs with “There Were Shepherds Abiding in the Field,” “And the Angel Said Unto Them,” and “And Suddenly There Was With the Angel.”

In measures electric with celestial rapture, soprano Marla McMaster sang “Rejoice Greatly, O Daughter of Zion,” after which soprano Jaclyn Thompson infected her listeners with human astonishment at divine miracles in “Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind Be Opened.”

In a voice evocative of supernal watchcare, soprano Ashlee Lieske sang “He Shall Feed His Flock Like A Shepherd,” her notes tenderly poignant.  And in soprano Kristina Maggio’s “Come Unto Me,” listeners heard the plangent pleading of an infinitely loving Lord.

Plaintive and  redolent with pathos, alto Sandy Hedgecock’s “He Was Despised” marked a moment of singular poignancy in the performance.  Likewise heart-piercing was Jaclyn Thompson’s “He Was Cut Off,” a penetrating soprano solo all the more remarkable coming from a singer who would later demonstrate her exceptional range by singing “Then Shall Be Brought to Pass” as an alto.  

Listeners glimpsed the darkest spiritual threats but found ultimate reassurance in alto Emily Diamond’s “But Thou Didst Not Leave His Soul.”  And with the soaring notes of the very gifted soprano Terry Metcalf-Peterson’s “Thou Art Gone Up on High,” listeners climbed to blessed realms, there experiencing immense thankfulness for the bounty of a triumphant Lord.  

But the full Easter import of this unforgettable Christmas celebration rang out in soprano Jasmine Hailstone’s “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.”  Endowing Job’s ancient prophecy with all the effulgent meaning of its fulfillment through Christ, Hailstone made her song a vibrant testimony of essential Christian belief.  

Forcefully amplifying that testimony, bass Curtis Chamberlin sang “Behold, I Tell You A Mystery” before trumpeter Richard McMaster joined in “The Trumpet Shall Sound” in a dazzling duet of human and instrumental soloists, Chamberlin’s rich bass voice plumbing the depths and McMaster’s radiant brass notes scaling the heights of the miraculous resurrection Christ won for all.  

As the last of the soloists, alto Brooke Alldredge and soprano Kara Barney sang “O Death, Where Is Thy Sting” in harmonious interplay, a magnificent weaving together of two well-paired voices, preparing the audience for the outpouring of the two final choruses: “But Thanks Be to God” and “Worthy Is the Lamb that Is Slain.”  

All the of evening solos were compelling, but even more praiseworthy than her work in preparing the soloists was Riddle-Jackson’s remarkable labors with the chorale as a whole, labors clearly manifest in the way all 136 voices melded into one potent, perfectly modulated force when rendering the dozen choruses performed during the concert.  Who could resist the exultant transport of “And the Glory of the Lord,” the jubilant elation of “For Unto Us a Child Is Born,” the worshipful adulation of “Glory to God,” the anguished pathos of “Behold the Lamb of God,” the boundless gratitude of “But Thanks Be to God,” or the awe-inspiring grandeur of “Worthy Is the Lamb That Was Slain”? Though the tradition that began with George II brings the audience to their feet only for the sublime “Hallelujah” Chorus, listeners at this fabulous concert must have felt like leaping to their feet for at least four or five of the outstanding choruses the Chorale performed.

As concert-goers left the Heritage Center these two December nights, wintery temperatures and patches of snow marked the season as Christmas.  But with echoes in the deep heart’s core of empyreal music delivering the promise of “victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” all who attended left certain that spring would soon bring the transcendent promise of Easter.

For that renewed certainty, the throngs leaving the Center could thank two hundred devoted musicians, two inspired directors, and two generous event sponsors (the Leavitt Group and State Bank of Southern Utah).  In this certainty, grateful listeners found a Christmas gift that will last until Easter—and beyond.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Handel's Messiah "Magnificent Story"

Update: All tickets have been distributed. Stand by line starts at 6:45.  Empty seats released at 7:15 p.m. If you have tickets you are unable to use please get them to the Heritage Center.  Thanks to all involved.

Orchestra of Southern Utah Invites All to the 78th Performance of Handel’s Messiah

by Tanisa Crosby

        For it’s 78th year the Orchestra of Southern Utah will  an annual holiday tradition of performing a free public concert of Handel’s Messiah.  This year marks the 78th performance, which will take place on December 9th and 10th at the Heritage Center.  This concert is a way for the Orchestra to give back to the community during the holiday season.  Sponsored by the State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group, it is free to the public. The OSU musicians and Chorale donate their time for this annual event.

        Over two hundred and fifty years since his death, Handel’s Messiah is still beloved amongst audiences. Premiering in April of 1742, Messiah shares the message found in the passages of the bible and Psalms from telling of the Savior’s birth, life, and hope of the resurrection.  Originally, Handel intended for the piece to be for Easter, but it has since become a Christmas season staple. With the whole first half of the piece is centered upon the birth of Christ, telling the story of Mary, the visitation of angels to the shepherds.  The second half tells more of what the Savior taught, his ultimate sacrifice of the atonement through his death, but that, just as Christ arose from the tomb, we too shall rise.

        It’s become a glorious message of hope, peace, and love for the Christmas season.  As such, it’s also become a beloved by the Orchestra members, sharing a peace and cheer filled message for the Holiday season.

       This performance is dedicated to the memory of Judith Spencer Larsen and Mary MacDonald, both of whom played viola in OSU for many years.

        Messiah will take place on December 9th and 10th at 7:30 pm and will take place at the Heritage Center Theatre (105 N 100 E, Cedar City, UT, located behind Lins). Tickets are free to the public and are now available at the Heritage Center. Empty seats are released at 7:15 p.m.  Children 6 and older are welcome to attend with adult supervision. For more information contact OSU Manager Rebekah Hughes at (435)592-6051 or

(Poster design by Rollan Fell of the Print Shoppe)

Spectrum article on both the St. George and Cedar City performances
Past performance of Good Tidings
2014 Hallelujah
2015 Comfort Ye and Every Valley
Post includes archival programs starting in 1970.

Sunday, Dec. 9

Monday, Dec. 10

7:30 p.m.

Heritage Center, 105 N. 100 East in Cedar City

Free and tickets now available from the Heritage Center

Empty seats released at 7:15 p.m.  Stand by line starts at 6:45 p.m.

Age 6 and over welcome with adult supervision. No babies please as the concert is recorded.


State Bank of Southern Utah and the Leavitt Group

Special thanks to the volunteer services of the Orchestra of Southern Utah musicians and the Chorale

Soloists for 2018:
Comfort Ye - Ethan McBride (tenor)
Every Valley Shall be Exalted - Ethan McBride (tenor)

Thus Saith the Lord - Alex Byers (baritone)
But Who May Abide the Day of His Coming - Alex Byers (baritone)

Behold a Virgin Shall Concieve - Krysten Tomlinson (alto)
O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion - Krysten Tomlinson (alto)

There Were Shepherds Abiding in The Field - Leslie Perkins (soprano)
And Lo, The Angel of The Lord - Leslie Perkins (soprano)
And the Angel said unto them - Leslie Perkins (soprano)
And Suddenly There Was With the Angel - Leslie Perkins (soprano)

Rejoice Greatly - Terri Metcalf-Petersen (soprano)

Then Shall the Eyes of the Blind be Opene'd - Brooke Alldredge (alto)
He Shall Feed His Flock/Come Unto Him - Brooke Alldredge (alto), Kristina Maggio (soprano)

Why do the Nations so Furiously Rage Together - Alex Byers (baritone)

How Beautiful Are the Feet - Jaclyn Thomas (soprano)

He That Dwelleth in Heaven - Shane Pierce (tenor)
Thou Shalt Break Them - Shane Pierce (tenor)

I Know That My Redeemer Liveth - Emily Diamond (soprano)
Behold, I Tell You a Mystery - Richard Waldron (baritone/bass) Richard McMaster (trumpet)
The Trumpet Shall Sound - Richard Waldron (baritone/bass)

More information:
Rebekah Hughes

Phone: (435) 592-6051

Friday, November 16, 2018

Live Music for Cedar City

OSU musicians participate in numerous community events.  Here are a few photos from the State Bank of Southern Utah event in Nov. and the STEAM Festival at SUU.

Thanks to everyone who participates in OSU as a musician, in the audience, backstage, support staff and a special shout out to our financial supporters who help us keep the music flowing.  Donations welcome and tax deductible:
P.O. Box 312
Cedar City, UT 84721

STEAM Festival at SUU in October exploring the science of sound.

Des Penny helped show students the science of sound with Anna Englestead assisting.

Musicians and volunteer Pam Littlefield helped the children make straw oboes
Desmond Penny  and Brooke MacNaughtan showed the students how wave motion creates harmonics

Friday, November 9, 2018

Timeless Drama Review

Beauty Beyond Time, Beyond Place
By Bryce Christensen
“Any great art work,” declared the great composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, “ . . . revives and readapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world—the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.”  Exulting in that “strange, special air,” hundreds of music lovers gathered in Cedar City’s Heritage Center on the night of November 8th for a concert performed by the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) in celebration of the centennial of Bernstein’s birth.  Aptly devoted to the theme “Timeless Drama,” this concert compellingly reminded listeners of the marvelous timelessness of Bernstein’s musical readaptation of time and space. But during the evening’s program, OSU’s talented musicians also demonstrated to listeners that great composers besides Bernstein have shared his power to revive and readapt time in ways that draw listeners into delightful new worlds.

Indeed, even before the evening’s concert began, local pianist Cody Stratton had set the tone for the evening with lobby music that defied the limits of time and space, blending together a musical potpourri of classical music and his own delightful creations.  Carrying listeners out of the concert hall to a sylvan world beneath the stars, Stratton’s “Campfire Bird” especially prepared listeners for an evening of musical transports.  

In welcoming the audience to the concert, OSU president Harold Shirley first focused on the music written by Leroy Anderson,  a 20th-century American composer who shared with his more famous contemporary Bernstein a great power to revive and readapt time and space.  Fittingly, Shirley promised that the two Anderson compositions the orchestra was about to play would stir nostalgia as they took listeners back to the simpler and less factious America of Fifties.

While listening to Anderson’s “Blue Tango,” many in the audience might well have sworn they were back in Manhattan Center in 1952 when Hugo Winterhalter and his orchestra launched this composition into enduring fame.  Named for a dance renowned for the close embrace maintained by couples performing it, this number became a harmonic tango that kept flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns, trumpets, trombones, violins, violas, cellos, and all of the other instruments very close in an exacting musical choreography rendered deceptively effortless.  OSU assistant conductor Adam Lambert demonstrated superb skill in wielding the baton keeping the entire orchestra in perfect synchrony. Somewhere the shade of Winterhalter must have looked down--and listened in--with warm approval.  Swaying in sympathetic response to the exotic rhythms revived and readapted from an earlier era, many in the 21st-century audience would have leaped to the dance floor had one been open to them. 

In turning next to Anderson’s “Belle of the Ball,” the orchestra maintained the dance theme, but did so while reviving and readapting a very different time and place.  Explaining that in “Belle of the Ball” he had sought to recapture the enchantment of Viennese waltzes, Anderson gave Lambert and the musicians under his direction a number that drew from the strains of Strauss and other masters of the waltz the beguiling inspiration for ethereal elegance, melodious and otherworldly.  Long a mainstay of the repertoire of the Boston Pops, Anderson’s “Belle” afforded Lambert and the Orchestra of Southern Utah an opportunity to do a collective impersonation of the famous Boston orchestra that was every bit as convincing as their previous impersonation of Winterhalter’s ensemble!  Leaving an enraptured audience unsure whether they were in 21st-century Cedar City, 20th- century Manhattan or Boston, or 19th-century Vienna, OSU delivered both Anderson standards in all their enthralling loveliness. 

Time and space yielded to artistic wizardry in a different fashion in the concert’s final pre-intermission number--Antonio Capuzzi’s Concerto in D Major.  As Shirley explained in his prefatory remarks, this time-dissolving work conveys the brilliance of a musical era when the Baroque metamorphosed into the Classical.   Originally written in Italy for the double bass, this selection captured the audience as the occasion for a remarkable solo performance by trombonist Michelle Lambert.  With admirable poise and skill, Lambert rendered every 18th-century flourish with 21st century verve.  Lambert moved from the profound depths of her instrument’s lower register into the mellower tones of its higher notes with liquid grace.  Particularly brilliant in the kinetic final measures, Lambert’s singular virtuosity captivated all who heard it. But perhaps no one found greater pleasure in hearing her memorable solo than did the man on the conductor’s platform:  Adam Lambert, whose identity as the soloist’s husband made him the ideal conductor for this number.   Never were musical and marital concord more beautifully joined!

In welcoming concertgoers back to the hall after intermission, Shirley spoke glowingly of the composer especially honored this night: Leonard Bernstein.  Bernstein, Shirley explained, was a composer whose genius could not be hidden, even during an era of McCarthyist hysteria and cowardice.

That genius shone brightly as the orchestra performed Bernstein’s Overture to ‘Candide,’ a composition demonstrating how the composer’s art could revive and readapt the imaginative vision of the Enlightenment satirist Voltaire (Fran├žois-Marie Arouet).   Taken from a light opera based on a mercilessly ironic novel by the French philosopher, Bernstein’s overture readapted the time and space of an Enlightenment satire in the dynamic rhythms of 20th-century drama, so exposing the hypocrisies and deceptions of the composer’s own time. Under the always-impassioned and inspiring baton of OSU conductor Xun Sun, OSU’s percussion section rose to the challenge of the complex rhythms of this daunting number, as drums and cymbals together played off the rest of the orchestra, taut with the irresistible energy of its cadences.  As the concert hall pulsed with the sprightliness of this ever-popular work, concert-goers occupied a time and place stunningly distant from modern Iron County. 

But Bernstein’s skill in reviving and readapting time and space manifested itself most spectacularly in the evening’s final number:  just as enchanting in 2018 as it was when first performed more than sixty years ago, Bernstein’s music for Symphonic Dances from West Side Story dazzled listeners as it revived and readapted the time and space that once were Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, reconceived as inter-ethnic romance in a blue-collar neighborhood in 20th-century New York City.  In the soaring lyricism of “Tonight,” listeners thrilled to that incomparable moment when young love first knows itself.   In the stirring Latin rhythms of “Maria,” they shared a passion transcending ethnic prejudice.  In “America,” they felt anew the irresistible appeal of a land that nurtures lofty aspirations; and in “One Hand, One Heart,” they joined in the tender hopes of a vulnerable couple anticipating marriage, blissfully unaware of the tragedy awaiting them.  Under Sun’s versatile directing, the OSU instrumentalists performed all of the iconic passages from Bernstein’s West Side score with a sureness of interpretive touch that put the audience back in time to 1957 and away in geography to Broadway, where Bernstein’s genius helped make this play a blockbuster.

At the evening’s close, as concert-goers filed out of the Heritage Center, they reflected on how a half-dozen musical numbers, unforgettably performed, had transported them to readapted times and spaces, making them happy if temporary inhabitants of astonishing imaginative realms outside of their habitual chronology and geography.  These satisfied concert-goers felt deeply indebted to Xun Sun, Adam Lambert, Michelle Lambert and all the other OSU performers, and the Sorenson Legacy Foundation and other concert sponsors for having afforded them the opportunity to experience the air of a rare Cedar City night in November as something intoxicatingly strange and special. 

Music "names the feelings for us, only in notes instead of words" Leonard Bernstein

Harold Shirley introduces the concert.
Thanks to everyone involved in the Nov. 8, 2018 concert.  We appreciate the musicians, audience, and financial supporters who help us keep the music live.
Concert review link

(Thanks to Rollan Fell, Rebekah Hughes, Sara and Des Penny for photos)

Adam and Michelle Lambert with Xun Sun at intermission.

Xun Sun directing Bernstein pieces, photo by Rebekah Hughes.
Cody Stratton provided lobby music.
Adam Lambert directing the LeRoy Anderson pieces

Michelle Lambert performs trombone concerto by Capuzzi.

Michelle receives flowers after performance. 

Dress rehearsal



Librarian Mandy Minkler keeping track of all of that music.
Part of the lobby display, a vintage Bernstein book
"Music moves . . That movement can tell us more about the way we feel than a million words can," Leonard Bernstein
Thanks to the financial donors who help OSU.  If you see any errors please contact Rebekah Hughes at

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Timeless Drama Concert on Nov. 8

Celebrate the Centenary of Leonard Bernstein with music from West Side Story and Candide on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center. The Orchestra of Southern Utah presents Michelle Lambert as trombone soloist and also has some delightful LeRoy Anderson pieces for your enjoyment.

The Concert takes place on Nov. 8 at the Heritage Center (105 North 100 East, Cedar City) begins at 7:30 pm. Children over 6 are welcome with adult supervision. No babies please as the concert is recorded. Tickets are available now by either phone (435-592-6051) or by purchase at Heritage Center/Festival Hall.

Nov. 8, 2018: Timeless Drama by OSU at 7:30 pm
Heritage Theater: 105 N 100 E
Tickets- $12 Adults and $6 Students. Groups up to six $40.

Full Publicity Article to Share:
Orchestra of Southern Utah to Honor Leonard Bernstein in November Concert
By Tanisa Crosby

        As the weather begins to get cooler the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) prepares for the November 8 concert, 7:30 p.m., at the Heritage Center.  The concert is centered on “Timeless Drama” and the well-known composer Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth and the Orchestra will perform pieces that celebrate and highlight his life.  Leonard Bernstein was a composer, conductor, educator and humanitarian and is regarded as a singular figure in American cultural history.
        Bernstein is known for his visceral and life-affirming compositions and created music that has echoed through generations.  His classical music was his biggest contribution and he continues to be one of the most widely performed composers. His music incorporated elements of rhythmic vitality of jazz and the lyrical intensity of art song while managing to still utilize musical roots, creating a diverse and wholly unique body of work.  To honor his musical legacy, the Orchestra will perform selections from West Side Story, which will feature popular tunes from the legendary musical.  They will also perform the ever popular Overture to Candide which is a classic for orchestras and bands alike.
        To go along with the theme of honoring composers from the 20th Century, OSU will perform two pieces by Leroy Anderson: Belle of the Ball and Blue Tango.  Leroy Anderson was another beloved composer from Bernstein’s era.  He is well known for using creative instrumental effects and occasionally using sound-generating items such as typewriters and sandpaper.  
Lastly, the Orchestra will display drama from an early time period and will be graced by trombone soloist Michelle Lambert performing Concerto in D Major by Antonio Capuzzi.  Lambert is an active soloist and teacher who also serves as a member of the Iron County School Board.
Xun Sun and Adam Lambert will be directing the concert.
        The “Timeless Drama” concert will take place on November 8th at 7:30 pm and will take place at the Heritage Center Theatre(105 N 100 E, Cedar City, UT, located behind Lins).  Tickets cost $12 for adults, $6 for students, and $40 for groups up to six. Children 6 and older are welcome to attend with adult supervision.  For more information contact OSU Manager Rebekah Hughes at (435)592-6051 or
The Sorenson Legacy Foundation is the major concert sponsor and also assists with the VIP program that introduces 4th graders to the orchestra in the crucial year when they are deciding which instrument to study.
Calendar Highlights:
Who:  Orchestra of Southern Utah
What: Timeless Drama Concert
Where: Heritage Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City
When: Thursday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.
How:  You are invited to enjoy live music with your orchestra

Full bio for Michelle Lambert:
Michelle Lambert earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Brigham Young University in
trombone performance. Over the last twenty years, she has played professionally with the Joe
Muscolino Band, Calor Tropical, Sundance Summer Theater, and the Utah Shakespeare
Festival. In addition, she has engaged in numerous freelance performing and recording
opportunities. She has been featured as a soloist on recitals at Chadron State College, the
University of Wyoming, Southern Utah University, and the Temple Square Recital Series. Since
1995, she has maintained a professional teaching studio in which she has instructed low brass
players of every skill level. She remains an active teacher and performer as adjunct faculty at
SUU and as principal trombone and brass section leader with the Orchestra of Southern Utah.
Michelle recently earned a BA in English from SUU, and last spring she was appointed to the
Iron County School Board. She and her husband, Adam, are the parents of four children.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Scintillating Storm of Song

By Bryce Christensen

Intent on drawing a richer, fuller sound from the instrumentalists playing under his baton, the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini would often exhort them during rehearsals, “Cantare!  Cantare!”  (“Sing! Sing!”)  The metaphoric aptness of the maestro’s exhortation was never more evident than during the Orchestra of Southern Utah’s October 11th concert, when instruments of all kinds truly did sing, and did so as the perfect complement to the music of three marvelous choral ensembles, who with their own vocal cords made amply manifest in Cedar City’s Heritage Center the reason for Toscanini’s earnest pleading: “Cantare!  Cantare!” 

Welcoming the audience to the concert devoted to the theme “Stormy Highlights,” OSU President Harold Shirley reminded listeners that the fiercest storms are often those that rage not in the external elements but rather in our own hearts and minds.  Nothing, he remarked, does more than songs to sustain us through such internal tempests. 

The truth of Shirley’s words became manifest with the first notes sung by the Master Singers, Cedar City’s all-male chorale under the direction of Allan Lee.  With their first number “Stormy Weather” (written by Joseph Waddell Clokey, arranged by Caroleen Lee), the Master Singers’ voices transported listeners to a realm of emotional turbulence--and musical solace.  Accompanied by Caroleen Lee at the keyboard, the choir fused inner turmoil with harmonic comfort in the haunting chant of a soul seeking the residual meaning that persists when the joys of summer-like warm relationship disappear in the frigid snows of winter-like abandonment.  

The metaphoric significance of weather manifested itself again in the Master Singers’ second number: Harold Arlen’s “Stormy Weather.”  Reflecting its Cotton Club origins, this moody number (arranged by Hal Campbell) voices the misery of a woman experiencing a personal rainstorm because her lover has gone away.  With Danny Hansen as the accompanist for this number, the choir rendered the jazz harmonies and teary syncopation that make a great blues number at once woeful and beautiful. 

After the Master Singers concluded their second selection, the Red Rock Singers took to the stage to extend the concert’s foray into the emotions and melodies incubated by stormy weather.  In their first number, “Rainsong” by Houston Bright, this choir (under the direction of Keith Bradshaw) expressed the melancholy gloom of one mourning the loss of a loved one, experienced as a downpour of  “raindrops falling from a sodden sky.”  With Tracey Bradshaw accompanying at the piano, the vocalists in this ensemble powerfully conveyed the dark burden of this plangent number. 
As their second number, the Red Rock rose above the winds and clouds creating terrestrial storms to visit the moon, an orb long relied on by romantics to enlighten and lift them above ominous storms. Expressing a hopeful outlook on our sublunary experiences, choir members rendered this lovely song with a tenderness of nuance, so creating the perfect backdrop for soprano Marlo Ihler’s heart-piercingly beautiful solo, lyrical and poignant. 

As the third chorale of the concert, the all-female In Jubilo swept the audience into the tragedy of a storm caused by a lack of storms—namely, the human storm of drought-induced starvation.  Listeners felt the force of this terrible storm of continental proportion in In Jubilo’s first number, “Famine Song,” written by the four-woman group known as VIDA and arranged by Matthew Culloton.  Under the direction of Jackie Riddle-Jackson with Teresa Redd accompanying on the piano, the choir conveyed the profoundest human pathos as they voiced the earnest pleadings of an acutely distressed community of Sudanese basket-weavers pleading for the lives of loved ones threatened by extreme hunger in horribly parched Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The tone shifted when In Jubilo performed their second number, “High Flight.” Karen Linford Robinson’s musical arrangement of a famous poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.,”High Flight” distills the most exalted moment in the life of  an American pilot who flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force until his tragic death in 1941.  Capturing the pilot’s exultant feeling upon completing a high-altitude test flight, the lyrics of this empyreal song—sublimely rendered by the choir—lifted listeners above clouds and storms, up to the very presence of the Divine. 

In their final number, “The Poet Sings” by Randall Stroope, In Jubilo again took flight, soaring above ugly and destructive storms of life not on an airplane’s wings but rather through a poet’s visionary aspirations.  In notes of sincere yearning for a better world, the choir sang of all that future generations might become if inspired by radiant dreams expressed by brave voices.

As an amusing change of pace, the last number before the intermission brought all three choirs together (under the direction of Jackie Riddle-Jackson) for a facetious break from serious and storm-focused solemnity.   In singing Henry Mollicone’s playful “National Weather Forecast,”  the four score singers from the three ensembles joined in a delightful send-up of the quasi-scientific ritual of weather forecasting.   Their mischievous parody hilariously culminated in a mock paean of praise for California’s mild and sunny weather, free from the storms that fill skies elsewhere.  With all of the singers quickly donning sunglasses for the final measures, this puckish number left listeners chuckling at intermission.    

Far from California, storm clouds gathered again after intermission for Tchaikovsky’s tempestuous “Storm Overture.”  Performed not by a chorus but by the instrumentalists of the Orchestra of Southern Utah, this magnificent composition reminded listeners that Toscanini is not the only conductor who can draw song from an orchestra.  With the passion that has become his much-beloved trademark, OSU director Xun Sun led the orchestra in an instrumental song weaving the voices of strings, brass, reeds, and percussion in an irresistible outpouring, electric with all of the energy of a summer squall.  Beginning with the deep brooding of a storm in gestation, this number repeatedly erupts with the blinding brilliance of lightening, the awe-inspiring crash of thunder.  As the warring elements relax, the orchestra subdues its song in tranquil and pacific interludes, only to break forth again with majestic violence.  The amazed audience could only marvel that this particular Tchaikovsky number has received relatively  little attention and give thanks that it did so on this particular storm-and-song filled night.

For its second number, the orchestra tuned its many voices to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas, a work based on a ballad by Goethe and made famous through its cinema dramatization in Walt Disney’s Fantasia.  But as this number unfolded the story of a hapless apprentice who unwittingly lets loose a great storm of untethered magic, the audience realizes this is no Mickey Mouse challenge for the orchestral voices tasked with singing its musical narrative.  Just ask the bassoon section, who ably carried a challenging thematic solo through a key passage of the work!  But praise for the musical achievement of playing this number belongs to more than the bassoonists: the entire orchestra—drums, horns, strings, and reeds—sang their parts at perfect pitch and tempo even as that tempo tightened as the apprentice’s misappropriated spell spun completely out of control.  Indeed, the very loss of control that unleashes a flood when the apprentice’s enchanted broom and bucket run amuck demands ever-more complete control by the musicians blending their instrumental voices to sing the increasingly frenetic musical story.   Under Sun’s ever-poised baton, the OSU musicians achieved and maintained that difficult degree of control.

The orchestra melded their instrumental singing in a final number perhaps even more intensely difficult: “Lion Dance” by Yiping Wang, which plunged the audience into the maelstrom of intense human activity requisite to enact the mysterious Middle Kingdom’s traditional mimicry of the wild pouncing of the world’s fiercest predator.  Believed to bring good fortune to those who perform and behold it, the musical version of this stormy dance mesmerized listeners with its Tarantella-like cadence, sustained first by oboe, then viola, then clarinet, then French horn, then trumpet in a tense interplay of piquantly contrasting instrumental songs. The sheer pleasure of hearing this marvelous interplay convinced those in the audience that this Lion Dance had indeed ushered in good fortune--to them as listeners.  

After a day and evening of showers, the night skies were clear over the Heritage Center as concert-goers departed.  But all were very grateful for the musical storms that had swept its stage, and for the songs--vocal and instrumental--that conveyed all the revivifying power of those storms.  Those in attendance also appreciated the Recreation Arts and Parks tax which had underwritten the concert, so allowing area music lovers of limited means to share in that refreshing power.   The abiding attraction of an orchestra ever ready to sing whether it be about storms or some other theme amply ensures that most of those in the audience this night will be back for the “Timeless Drama” of OSU’s November concert.  

Combined choirs

OSU President Harold Shirley introduces the music.

Orchestra of Southern Utah by Gia Miller.