Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Great concert, Wenatchee!

What a pleasure to host another concert of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony. Maestro Marty Zyskowski conducted a great program. It opened with Sousa's Liberty Bell March, which was used as the opening them of Monty Python's Flying Circus. As I told the audience, that piece was written with the title of The Devil's Deputy. It didn't sit well with Sousa's band manager. The name change was a good idea!

After the opening, the Wenatchee High School Percussion section, clad in their purle and yellow uniforms, came onstage with their director Jim Kovach, to join in John Williams's music for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The scoring also called for a celeste and piano. This was the only piece keyboardist Jill had to be perform that night.

The orchestra made us feel nostalgic with The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Mancini Memories with selections from Breakfast at Tiffany's and Hatari.

In researching Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld I discovered that the operetta was even funnier than I remembered - in fact, it's a complete send-up of the Greek legend. In this version, Eurydice is not in love with Orpheus. So much so she’s having an affair with someone else! She moans and complains and tries to get out of her relationship, which is fine with Orpheus, who's much more in love with his fiddle....but a character named Public Opinion will not stand for it. So Orpheus is forced to get rid of his wife's lover. But in the madcap attempt, Eurydice dies as an unintended event. Orpheus is quite all right with it, but Public Opinion is decidely not. Now Orpheus he has to go into Hades and get Eurydice back.

It's truly a madcap romp from Mount Olympus to Hades and back, and the operetta gave us lots of catchy melodies. Who among us isn't tempted to hum along to the Can-Can?

After intermission, the WVS gave an excellent performance of Dvorak's 9th Symphony, better known as the New World Symphony. As I told the audience, it was written in the late 1800s, when there wasn't a distinctly American form of classical music. New Yorker Jeanette Thurber did some pretty clever fundraising to start the National Conservatory to pursue this. Ironically, they hired a Czech to create this American sound! But what a sound. People who heard the spiritual "Going Home" would say, "oh, that's where Dvorak got that lovely theme." Fact is, the melody was written by Dvorak, and borrowed to create the spiritual! What a gorgeous melody. No wonder this is One Of The Most Beloved Symphonies Ever Written.

A lively encore of Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever closed another great concert.

Then, it was time for coffee and dessert.

And time to visit with listeners.

Above: That's our station manager Roger Johnson in the black suit, with listeners taking a look at our display with pictures of radio personalities, both national hosts and those at Northwest Public Radio.

Above: I spoke to longtime NWPR supporters and classical music fans Larry and Penny Tobiska.

We couldnt' have put on the reception without the help of volunteers. Thanks, guys!

Here are some of those terrific volunteers, with our Woman in Wenatchee, Rita Brown (with the name tag.)

For all the exuberant performances and humor in the music, though, there was a tinge of sadness around the edges of this evening. The concert was dedicated to a member of the symphony, violinist Angela Schuster Svendsen. The former Young Artist winner was killed in a car accident this month. Angela was 31.

I was also very sad to hear that conductor Marty Zyskowski's wife Char is struggling with cancer. I met Char last year and enjoyed chatting with her. She's a cheerful, sunny woman. This illness is very hard on her as well as for Marty. You are both in my thoughts and prayers.

Prayers and good thoughts also to my Northwest Public Radio colleague in Wenatchee, sales executive Kathy Allen, undergoing treatment for brain cancer. Kathy was previously with the Wenatchee Downtown Association before joining us in October last year, and is a well-known person in Wenatchee. She's mother of a toddler, and sister-in-law to a former NWPR employee, Kelly Allen (you may remember her show, Saturday Jazz.) An account has been set up for Kathy at People's Bank. If you'd like to make a donation, you can do so at any branch. It's really been heartbreaking to all of us at NWPR; needless to say, we're all rooting for you, Kathy.

And looking ahead now to the final concert of the Wenatchee Valley Symphony's 60th year: that will be on April 15th, with pianist Dr. Jody Graves. The birthday celebration begins with a silent auction at 6PM, and of course, there'll be cake! So, good folks of Wenatchee, turn out and help your great orchestra have a successful fundraiser. They get better every time I hear them, and with your support, they can continue to bloom and grow, bloom and grow, for-e........ver...... (Well, they were playing Edelweiss tonight! I get my inspiration where I can.)

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