Messiah Beyond the Music

In preparation for this weekend’s performance of Messiah by George Frideric Handel, I wanted to write a post that gave listeners a unique insight into it. There are so many outstanding things about this piece that people should know about: its high esteem throughout history among composers in every era, including Mozart; the fact that it was entirely composed in an astounding four weeks; that Handel, who had earlier in life suffered a debilitating stroke, considered his writing of Messiah to be the purpose of his recovery. However in this holiday season I find the most fitting story that can be told about Messiah is what Handel considered the work to be, and what he intended it to be used for.

To the sponsors of the first performance of the oratorio, Handel stipulated that profits from this and all future performances of Messiah “be donated to prisoners, orphans, and the sick. I have myself been a very sick man, and am now cured,” he said. “I was a prisoner, and have been set free.”

Following the first London performance of Messiah, a patron congratulated Handel on the excellent “entertainment.”

“My lord, I should be sorry if I only entertained them,” Handel humbly replied. “I wish to make them better.”

When you attend the concert this weekend, enjoy the great performance put on by these very talented musicians, but also take the time to allow this singular work to Uplift and Inspire you. Listen to the message of the music. Consider the power of inspiration, and let it lead you, lead us all, to be better.

Mid September News

This was a banner week for the Symphony in many regards. This last Wednesday saw the first rehearsal for Symphony members working on their most ambitious piece yet: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in F minor. I’m going to start plugging this performance (scheduled for January) right now, because it surely will be memorable for both SWSO regulars and newcomers alike. Don’t miss this landmark performance of a truly beautiful piece of music!

SWSO players also had a few chances to participate in other local musical events over the weekend, as well:

Dr. Ka-Wai Yu, resident cellist at Dixie State University and first chair cellist in the orchestra, spent many weeks preparing and organizing the Second Annual Dixie State Cello Festival, which was, as it was last year, a roaring success. More than 80 cellists from St. George and the surrounding area came together to play as an ensemble, listen to one another perform, and get educated on teaching and practicing techniques.

Friday night featured a teachers’ recital, in which teachers participating in the festival got the chance to perform some of their favorite works. The program took listeners on a tour of the world, with pieces from the far East, Europe, and our good ol’ US of A, featuring composers such as Elgar, Kummer, and Mark Summer.

Saturday night, the cello ensemble took the stage to delight and entertain. The highlights of the performance included Bachianas Brasilieras #5, Disney favorites Let it Go and A Whole New World (from the films Frozen and Aladdin, respectively), an all-cello arrangement of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin, and what performance wouldn’t be complete without a little John Williams, in this case the theme from the Indiana Jones films! A good time was had by all, not least of all because of the free donuts and pizza. Click here to watch a video of part of the final performance!

Saturday the 16th, 5 SWSO members got the opportunity to form a quintet and play with the very talented vocal group, GENTRI. Comprising three tenors and one pianist/arranger, GENTRI arranges and performs what they call “cinematic pop,” weaving together close harmonies and symphonic arrangements to create original music and new versions of old classics, which they use to deliver uplifting and inspiring messages. The set list on Saturday included a Broadway medley, selections from Les Miserables, some of their original compositions, and a selection of popular hits from a range of genres, including Bless the Broken Road (Rascal Flatts) and It’s Hard to Say I’m Sorry (Boston), and one very innovative piano mashup of Thunderstruck and You’ll Be In My Heart from the Disney movie Tarzan.

This was the second time the SWSO has had the chance to perform with GENTRI and we very much look forward to the third. Thank you, guys!

If you are aware of a musical or other artistic performance, either in the past or in the future, that involves SWSO musicians that you would like to highlight in the blog, please let us know!

Elevate and Inspire!

The first post of an ongoing feature is always the toughest. How to begin to speak to an already loyal audience in a brand new voice? This blog, of course, is the smallest of many changes that the Symphony is undergoing this year, but not to worry, nothing that you love about SWS is going away. Everything new is there to further Elevate and Inspire.

This blog will be where you will be able to not only find out what upcoming programs you will be able to enjoy, but it’s also my aim to heighten your Symphony experience. For each scheduled performance, there will be four featured articles:

Personnel Profile:

Who is your Southwest Symphony Orchestra? These are a group of very talented individuals, but they are also your neighbors, your friends, your work colleagues. We’ll start to tell the story of these people, how they came to be where they are, and what they love best about their involvement with the SWS.

Show Preview:

In my own experience, the more background I have about a composer or a piece, the greater my appreciation for that piece is, and the more I enjoy it every time I hear it played. Did you know, for example, that Edvard Grieg’s piece “March of the Trolls,” which will be a part of the Halloween Spooktacular, has been played under the title “March of the Dwarfs” because trolls were a largely unknown mythical creature outside of Norway (Grieg’s motherland)? I am excited about unearthing little known bits and pieces about all of these compositions this year, and sharing them with you.

Culture Closeup:

Ok so it’s nice to know that Grieg came from Norway and what trolls are and all of that, but what does that have to do with our own history? Let’s discover the rich history of the humanities here in our beautiful Dixie together. Who are our local artists, both past and present? Which was the first theater here in town? What are the highlights of the present local arts scene? This feature will endeavor to uncover everything Arts that St George has to offer, both past and present.

Plan Your Night Out:

Looking to make an evening of your SWS experience? Are you taking a date? Your spouse? Your children? Your old Army buddy? What are some of the local things that you can do around town to make it a memorable evening (as if the music itself weren’t enough)?

I look forward to getting Elevated and Inspired with all of you!