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World Premiere Highlights Symphony’s March Concert PDF Print E-mail
News/Features - Feature Stories
Written by Johanna Welzenbach-Hilliard   
Tuesday, 01 March 2005 18:00
Amidst the Symphony in Bloom activities taking place this weekend, the Quad City Symphony Orchestra (QCSO) is also offering the world premiere of British composer Andrew Carter’s “Three Nonsensical Songs.” This piece was commissioned in honor of Ezra Mozart Hartman as a memorial gift from Karen Hartman Getz, Tom Getz, and the Moline Foundation. Performances will be Saturday, March 5, at 8 p.m. in the Adler Theatre, and Sunday, March 6, at 2 p.m. in Augustana College’s Centennial Hall.

Carter has an impressive musical background. With a degree in music from Leeds University, he spent seven years as bass soloist for the York Minster Choir. While living in York, Carter founded the award-winning Chapter House Choir, which he led for 17 years.

For 30 years Carter has been composing choral music – with carols as his specialty. In addition to being commissioned by St. Paul’s Cathedral in London for its 300-year celebration (for which he wrote “Missa Sancti Pauli”), he has also composed works for American institutions, such as St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minnesota, for which he wrote “Oh, How Joyfully!” That piece was performed as the main number in St. Olaf’s 2001 nationally televised Christmas Festival.

Carter is tied to the Quad Cities through a friendship with Steve Jobman, director of the symphony’s children’s chorus. Carter explained in an e-mail how they met: “Almost 20 years have passed since he [Jobman] brought his Galesburg church choir to my home city of York to sing on a particularly dismal, wet evening. My wife read out the advert from that evening’s newspaper, and I made short work of the evening meal to go and swell the audience numbers a little. How glad I am that I did that.”

Carter and Jobman became friends that night.

Said Carter, “Not long afterwards I received an invitation from those Presbyterians of Galesburg to write an anthem for a special occasion. It was special for me too, since it was my very first American commission – ‘Light of the World.’ When I hear it sung, I always recall lying awake in my Galesburg bed hearing the locomotive sirens punctuating the small hours as they approached the 13 crossings in the town.”

As for “Three Nonsensical Songs,” Carter said, “The invitation to write a suite of pieces for the QCS Orchestra and Children’s Chorus was, as anticipated, great fun to fulfill.” Originally, Carter had planned on using three texts from Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. The first two songs turned out well, but the third, “Twas Brillig,” “limped and finally came to a halt.” He wrote a new text based upon the nonsensical phrase “The elephant is a bonnie bird,” to which he added four more stanzas of his own.

Presenting new or rarely performed pieces is a symphony strategy for increasing its audience size. Although the QCSO enjoys a faithful following of season-ticket holders, it would like to see a wider demographic range of people attend its concerts. According to Lance Willett, the QCSO’s executive director, “There have major been shifts in our audiences and in our market. Our audiences have much broader tastes in music and entertainment than just a few years ago, so it is our responsibility to respond with increasingly varied programs that offer new experiences beyond what some view as a traditional classical-music performance.”

To this end, Music Director Donald Schleicher programs “standard orchestral literature … and balances them with less-often-performed works, music of our time,” wrote Willett in an e-mail. In this way, Schleicher hopes to keep the attention of audience members not familiar with symphonic music. Willett added, “Additionally, we are presenting more ‘nontraditional’ guest artists, such as an oboist, a children’s chorus, and a gypsy swing ensemble, all to keep our audiences involved.”

The symphony orchestra is a Quad Cities institution that has endured for 90 years. Founded in 1915, the QCSO is among the oldest orchestral organizations in the United States. The symphony boasts an 85-member orchestra that provides eastern Iowa and western Illinois with classical, chamber, and pop music concerts, and a variety of educational programs that are free-of-charge. Artistic personnel are recruited from throughout the Midwest as well as from here in the Quad Cities.

What does Willett foresee over the next 90 years of the symphony’s existence? “To maintain our viability and currency, we can only look ahead perhaps 10 years,” he wrote. “During that period, I expect we will see continued expansion of our music-education programs, with increased emphasis on adult music education. There will also be more non-concert-hall delivery of our performances.”

By this Willett means that QCSO would like smaller symphony ensembles to perform in other venues around the Quad Cities, such as the Village of East Davenport, the Figge Art Museum, and the John Deere Commons. Willet also hopes to take the full orchestra to neighboring communities such as Geneseo, Muscatine, and Mt. Vernon for “hometown concerts” as it has done in the past.

Also, the symphony plans to increase its use of technology. Provided it receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2006 (monies are pending), QCSO will be “the first orchestra in Iowa, and perhaps in the nation, to utilize fiber-optic technology, in this case the Iowa Communications Network [ICN], to present orchestra music,” Willett wrote. The symphony plans on offering live performances through the network to any school in Iowa that has access to ICN.

The students will be provided with curriculum materials beforehand and will enjoy the benefit of a live question/answer session via ICN after the performance. This concept is similar to the outreach program, but the symphony will not have to travel to perform in each school.

QCSO has recently added sound excerpts to its Web site that enable listeners to hear a sample of music to be performed at an upcoming concert. Additionally, the symphony is enhancing this weekend’s concert by adding projections above the stage of the pictures that composer Modest Mussorgsky writes about in Pictures at an Exhibition.
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