The Helena Symphony continues its 64th Season on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Helena Civic Center with French composer Maurice Duruflé’s ethereal Requiem and performed in memory of Symphony President Matthew Dale who passed away in August 2018.  The concert continues with seven actors, projected images, and the words of immigrants to create a moving account of the hopes and fears of those who arrived in America in search of a utopian world through Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island – Dream of America.  Five of the seven narrators will feature former immigrants who are now Helena citizens, including Mayor Wilmot Collins, Sasha Fendrick, Ersun Özer, Isabel Pomerleau, Italian actress Christine Mayn, along with American actors Katy Wright and Mokey McNeilly.

Duruflé published only fourteen works, including his Requiem, composed in 1947, which brought him international prominence as a composer.  His music has a wonderful marriage of the Impressionist school of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel and the elegant Classical French school of Gabriel Fauré.  Most importantly, however, was the influence of Gregorian chants and Renaissance music that remained at the core of Duruflé’s artistic style.  Unlike the Requiems of Verdi, Berlioz, and Mozart, which depict the Final Judgment Day (“Dies irae”), Duruflé avoids the stern call for repentance and wrote his Requiem as a gentle prayer for eternal rest, illuminating a peaceful passing into paradise. The 100-voice Symphony Chorale performs moving work with the Helena Symphony Orchestra in memory of Matthew Dale.  In addition to serving as President of the Helena Symphony for over two years, Matt was also the Director of the Office of Consumer Protections and Victim Services for the State of Montana.  He previously worked as the Director of the Friendship Center for many years, and served on many other boards, including Intermountain Children’s Home.

Grammy-nominated American composer Peter Boyer (born in 1970) is one of the most frequently performed orchestral composers of his generation.  As a composer, Boyer has orchestrated music to more than 30 feature films for composers including Michael Giacchino (Jurassic World, Inside Out, Star Trek, Up, Cars 2, Mission Impossible III), James Newton Howard (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Red Sparrow), Thomas Newman (Finding Dory, Skyfall), James Horner (The Amazing Spider-Man), Alan Menken, and others.  Boyer also orchestrated the music for orchestra concerts Pixar in Concert and Titanic Live.  He has arranged music for two Academy Awards telecasts, composed music for The History Channel, and music for A&E Networks.

Boyer began working on Ellis Island – The Dream of America months before September 11, 2001, and it was completed in the months that followed.  “During my research trips to Ellis Island in the summer of 2001, many times I imagined what it was like to be an immigrant sailing into New York Harbor, and seeing the skyline of lower Manhattan,” explained Boyer.  “As the world mourned those devastating events, I often reflected on how that skyline had tragically changed.  After September 11, the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island Immigration Museum, which draw millions of visitors each year, were closed to the public for over three months; the Statue itself did not welcome visitors again until August 2004.  The reopening of these American icons reminds us of the endurance of the freedoms which have drawn generations of immigrants from around the world.”

Ellis Island: The Dream of America incorporates elements of the theatre and multimedia with the concert hall, employing actors and projected historical images from the Ellis Island archives.  The spoken texts for the work come from the Ellis Island Oral History Project, an historic collection of interviews with actual immigrants about their experiences emigrating to America.  After extensive research in this archive, Boyer chose the stories of seven immigrants who came to America through Ellis Island from disparate nations between 1910-1940.  He fashioned short monologues from actual words of these immigrants and wove them into an orchestral tapestry which frames and comments on their stories – by turns poignant, humorous, moving, and inspiring.

America is a nation of immigrants, and our immigrant history is a profound part of our American mythology.  In the history of American immigration, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty are icons of immense significance.   In the years of its operation, from 1892 to 1954, more than 12 million immigrants, over 70% of all immigrants to the U.S., passed through Ellis Island, the processing station which was “the gateway to America.”  Today, more than 40% of the U.S. population, over 100 million Americans, can trace their roots to an ancestor who came through Ellis Island.  The stories of Ellis Island immigrants are in many ways our family stories: whether they are tales of our grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, or friends, so many American can relate to these experiences as part of our collective history.

— Peter Boyer

The Helena Symphony Orchestra is joined by 7 members of the Helena community to narrate this epic and moving work – 5 of which are actual former immigrants who are now Helena and American citizens: Italian actress Christine Mayn, chef Ersun Özer from Turkey, 10-year-old Isabel Pomerleau from China, Mayor Wilmot Collins from Liberia, and World Montana Executive Director Sasha Fendrick from Russia.  These five narrators will also be joined by American actors Katy Wright and Mokey McNeilly.  “While the stories these narrators are telling are not their actual life stories, in many ways they could be,” explains Maestro Scott.  “The stories are one of determination, hope, fear, and truly what it means to do whatever it takes to seek a better life.  The citizens who were once immigrants to our community understand this better than most of us, and we are so excited to celebrate them and all of those who came before us to make our community and country better.”

Tickets can also be purchased ($55-$15 plus a $5 transaction fee) online, by calling the Symphony Box Office (406.442.1860), or visiting the Symphony Box Office located on the Walking Mall at the Livestock Building (2 N. Last Chance Gulch, Suite 1) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Tickets for the remaining Non-Series Concerts, Tango! and Christmas in the Cathedral are also on sale now.

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