Considered by Rachmaninoff to be his greatest work, The Bells sets the descriptive words of Edgar Allan Poe to paint musical poetry. The HSO also presents one of the first performances of New Zealand Composer John Psathas’ The All-Seeing Sky, an evocative work for two percussionist soloists and orchestra, and Alexander Scriabin’s mystical Poem of Ecstasy is an erotic, existential, all-consuming experience!

Masterworks V is presented with thanks to AARP Montana, Chase Bank, Art & Rena Bumgardner, Ramada by Wyndham, and HTC Montana Limousine!


Percussionist Lynn Vartan is an international performer and educator who is an advocate for diversity in music. As a new music percussionist Lynn has worked with Michael Colgrass, Vinny Golia, Arthur Jarvinen, Ursula Oppens, Joan Tower, Glen Velez, Xtet, James Newton, Chinary Ung, the Hilliard Ensemble, the Tambuco Percussion Ensemble and Grammy® Award-winning Southwest Chamber Music and is known for her dynamic athleticism and exciting energy on stage. She has commissioned and/or performed countless new works for percussion by composers such as Donald Crockett, William Kraft, Carlos Rafael Rivera, Steve Hoey, Veronika Krausas, Erica Muhl, Arthur Jarvinen, Sean Heim, Jeff Holmes, Keith Bradshaw and Shaun Naidoo. Lynn Vartan returns to the helean Symphony stage on March 23rd!


Dr. Lin is a respected marimba performer, and chamber, contemporary, and orchestral musician. His recent marimba repertoire includes music of J.S. Bach, Camille Saint-Saëns, Francesco Tárrega, and Lyle Mays. Dr. Lin was a percussionist of Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. Currently, Dr. Lin is the principal timpanist of Counterpoint Ensemble and Taipei Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra. He is an associate professor of Yulin Normal University in Guangxi, China, and assistant professor of National Chiayi University in Taiwan.


Psathas’ music combines the improvisational feel of jazz with driving rhythms. His works also incorporate rock and roll like excitement cloaked in repeated phrases common with minimalist composers like John Adams and Philip Glass. “When I write music, it’s not a sense of inventing,” Psathas explained. “It is like seeing things that aren’t really there – in the corner of one’s eye…in our peripheral vision while looking straight ahead.”

Commissioned by two orchestras in New Zealand – the Orchestra Wellington and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra – along with the City Light Symphony Orchestra in Switzerland, Psathas composed his latest double percussion concerto in 2021. Written for and dedicated to the percussion duo Fabian Ziegler and Luca Staffelbach, the concerto is for marimba and vibraphone soloists and a pared down orchestra. The work is inspired by illustrations made for Dante’s Inferno as well as the idea of surveillance in the technological modern world of today. Titled The All-Seeing Sky, the concerto refers specifically “to the idea of omnipotent surveillance,” Psathas says.


In many ways Poe’s poetry was an ideal match for Rachmaninoff, as the text gave full scope to many of his most personal concerns in addition to providing an opportunity to evoke different moods of the bell metaphors through his rich, colorful sonorities. Each of the movements corresponds to one of the four stanzas of Poe’s poem and just as Poe uses the repetition of the word “bells” with each having its own function in life’s journey, so does Rachmaninoff use different sounds to reiterate the presence of the bells, giving each its own color and presence.

Rarely given to artistic explanation and justification, Rachmaninoff revealingly confessed that “a composer’s music should express the country of his birth, his love affairs, his religion, the books that have influenced him, and the pictures he loves. It should be the sum total of a composer’s experience.” The reminiscence of the sounds of his Russia clearly symbolized his life there and he never forgot the “singing and the ringing,” “the rhyming and the chiming,” “the booming and the clanging,” and “the groaning and the moaning” of the bells.


Influenced by the writings of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and the composer Richard Wagner, Scriabin developed his own brand of mysticism that made him more of a cult-like figure in music. He ultimately believed that art, especially music, fills the void for humanity’s spiritual needs left by religion and society. While his later works border on the brink of atonalism, Scriabin’s Poem of Ecstasy has a yearning that is philosophical, sexual, spiritual, and existential all combined. Using an incredibly rich, colorful orchestration and sensuous textures, Scriabin centers the work around three main themes: a winding chromatic theme, a theme with quick leaps and trills, and a fanfare-like theme. Scriabin combines and develops these ideas and inserts two large climaxes, one in the middle of the twenty-minute work and one at the conclusion. Throughout the entire journey, the musical angst builds by never resolving the harmonic tension until the very end with a much-needed release in C major. No need to look directly at the sun or take an ice bath with cocaine to experience Scriabin’s ecstasy.


The Helena Symphony continues its partnership with AARP to bring exceptional symphonic music to thousands across western Montana. As the Masterworks Series presented by AARP Montana, this continued collaboration will supports audiences within the concert hall, bringing the highest quality symphonic performances and guest artists to Helena. The Helena Symphony is grateful for the generosity of the entire AARP Montana team!

Single concert tickets can be purchased ($65-$20 plus a $5 transaction fee) online at, by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or visiting the Symphony Box Office located on the Walking Mall at the Placer Building (21 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 100) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

See below for Season concert listing.
Maestro Scott and guest artists are available for interviews by contacting
the Symphony at 406.442.1860 or development@helenasymphony.

The Helena Symphony’s Black-Tie Masquerade Brings the Music of Harry Potter to Life!
Acclaimed Cellist Amit Peled Returns to Perform!