The Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates literature in music

EVANSVILLE – Saturday’s excellent concert by the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra featured a consortium of local artistic forces.

The EPO performed in its pre-COVID fullness while, in the semi-scenic production of the musical staging of Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the orchestra’s choir members accompanied sopranos Tiffany Choe and Andrea Drury as seven actors from the Evansville Civic Theater performed selections of scenes from Shakespeare’s play.

The evening began with a magnificent performance of “Ascending Bird”, a 2004 composition by Colin Jakobsen based on Iranian melodies collected by Siamak Aghaei. The piece begins strangely, as brass and wind instruments sustain cluster chords until a violin enters with its cadence solo, beautifully played by Jia-Rong Gan.

After a slow and gloomy first section, the composition catches fire and speed. For this concert, the conductor Roger Kalia had the percussions placed immediately in front of the podium, as the motor rhythm is so important for the integrity of the sound. Percussionist Ross Erickson has performed his superb collection of drums and clicking instruments with great energy and poise.

We imagine that, as the play ends in an explosive chord, the eponymous bird has reached the sun and burst into a new spiritual existence.

As he so often does, Kalia (leaving the instrumentalists on stage) addressed the audience, thanking them for their support for the excellent orchestra in their hometown. He announced the ways in which this program showcased the skills of local artists, not just musicians.

He invited Joshua Britton on stage. Britton described his new book, “The Notes Will Carry Me Home”, a collection of writings on music. All 26 authors, including several who appeared on stage with Josh, are from the Tri-State, and the book can be purchased on Amazon or through the Philharmonic.

As Kalia finished her remarks, members of the EPO Choir entered the stage. The lighting was subdued, bathed in blue, appropriate for the “night dream” that followed. The four chords of the “Overture”, magnificently evocative and accurate, began the setting to music of the comedy.

Seven actors from the Evansville Municipal Theater – yet another artistic resource in the tri-state – appeared on stage as 13 different characters, which is no small theatrical or physical feat.

At first the sound quality was uniformly excellent, but later some voices were distorted and a low hum could be heard. But nonetheless, the hilarious piece “Pyramus and Thisbe” (with a rock performance by Wall) clearly stood out.

The EPO choristers included a fairy choir, with wonderful solos by Drury and Choe (although we look forward to the day when the masks can be removed). All the while, the orchestra was also busy: special mention must be made of the magnificent melodious horn playing in the famous “Nocturne” and the frenzied reading of the “Wedding March”.

The evening was a very successful tour de force.

About Christopher Rodgers

Check Also

Justus Rosenberg, professor and last surviving member of a group that smuggled intellectuals out of Nazi-held Europe, has died aged 100

(JTA) – Justus Rosenberg, a professor whose long career in teaching literature was preceded by …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *