On Saturday, February 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center, the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale presents American legend Leonard Bernstein’s compelling and thrilling Chichester Psalms along with memorable moments from Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, and culminates with Beethoven’s unmistakable and triumphant Fifth Symphony.
In addition to the Helena Symphony Orchestra & Chorale, the Gillette Chamber Singers of Gillette, Wyoming will join the HSO&C making for a total of over 100 singers and 70 players. Leonard Bernstein also calls for a boy soprano to appear as a soloist in his Chichester Psalms, and twelve year old Stephen Grant of The Madeline Choir School in Salt Lake City will make his debut with the Helena Symphony Orchestra.
The concert opens with the lesser known music of Russian composer Alexander Borodin. A full time physician and chemist, Borodin produced music distinguished by harmonic and rhythmic originality that was greatly indebted to Oriental melodies coupled with Russian ideas. This preoccupation with the exotic was becoming increasingly common. The opera focuses on the Russian hero of Prince Igor, a 12th-century warrior who is captured by the Polovtsians, but eventually escapes. Many of the themes have been used in other music, including the 1953 musical Kismet, and the song “Strangers in Paradise” (immortalized by Tony Bennett).
“The dilemma of American music is summarized and even amplified in the life, career, and artistic contributions of Leonard Bernstein,” suggests Music Director Allan R. Scott. “Bernstein himself could not decide which way to turn – in his musical career (pianist, composer, conductor, or teacher?), his musical style (popular or serious?), his religion or his sexuality.” Commissioned by the 1965 Southern Cathedrals Festival for the English cathedral choirs of Chichester, Winchester, and Salisbury, Bernstein produced a substantial three-movement work with a Hebrew text (partly because it was the language of his limited religious upbringing and, perhaps, for a bit of “shock-value”). Rather than reflecting the Anglican choral tradition for which the commission was intended, Bernstein used sounds that resembled West Side Story, capturing a loss of innocence in a place of anguish and despair. “With his Chichester Psalms, Bernstein suggests that faith might be grasped through the vision of child-like innocence, and that perhaps knowledge itself is pain,” explains Maestro Scott.
Without question the opening four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony are the most known in all of music, classical or otherwise. Meant to symbolize a knock on a door of fate (or death), the entire Symphony is a wrestling matching between the composer and his own destiny. In it, Beethoven triumphs, and if nothing else, it gives the composer immortality – at least artistic immortality. “While it is so well-known, many people have not witnessed a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5,” explains Director of Artistic Planning Teak Hoiness. “Hearing and seeing this work be performed should be on everyone’s ‘to-do list,’ so this is the perfect opportunity to truly experience it.”
This concert is also part of the Symphony’s new Young Professionals Concert Series designed for professionals in their 20’s to 40’s. This three concert mini-series (concerts January, February and one other choice) features a Beethoven symphony, and is designed so young professionals have an opportunity to become part of the Helena arts scene, mingle and network with other young professionals, and experience the Helena Symphony. The Young Professionals Concert Series costs $50 for all three concerts, and includes several other bonuses such as a pre-concert social with a complimentary drink.
Tickets can be purchased on line at helenasymphony.org, or by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or at the Symphony Box Office located at new offices on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.