A standout symphonic performance

It’s easy to forget just how powerful a live performance by a symphony orchestra can be.  After all, if memory serves correctly, it’s been several years since our family has been to one — probably about as long as it’s been since my lovely wife Amy was last a member of the West Valley Symphony of Utah.

Amy Miller performs the soprano vocal solo to Ennio Morricone’s “Jill’s Theme” from the film “Once Upon A Time In The West” under the direction of conductor Donny Gilbert during the West Valley Symphony of Utah’s performance of 11 American classics Saturday night at the Granger High School auditorium. (Photo and videos by John G. Miller)

We were reminded of just how powerful such a performance can be Saturday night, as the orchestra presented “American Overtures” at the Granger High School auditorium in front of a very receptive audience, with Amy being very grateful to be given the opportunity by music director/conductor Donny Gilbert to perform the soprano vocal solo to Ennio Morricone’s “Jill’s Theme” from the classic film “Once Upon A Time In The West” when she wasn’t sitting in her first violin chair during the other selections of the evening.

The selections all blended  together very well, showing an evolution of sorts as America went through its hardest “growth periods,” from its start in the East to the Civil War years to the move westward.

The evening started with the theme, Joseph Wilcox Jenkins’ “American Overture.”  West Valley Symphony board chairman and associate conductor Sterling Poulson took to the podium to conduct a very powerful rendition of Trevor Jones‘ “Last of the Mohicans,” followed by the complexity of John Williams’ “Land Race” from the movie “Far And Away.”

Then came “Jill’s Theme” from “Once Upon A Time In The West,” and just as it’s been in the two times that I’ve heard it being rehearsed in the weeks leading up to the actual performance, the combination of the orchestra’s playing along with the much-needed female soprano voice from Amy providing the human emotion raised goosebumps in me, particularly on the higher notes.

Aaron Copland‘s “John Henry” kept the momentum going by providing the clear sounds of the growth of a nation through its rail system, followed by Gilbert’s own composition with its Utah flavor in “The Trail of Butch and Sundance.”

Then came the heartache that came with the Civil War, laid out in Jerry H. Bilik’s “American Civil War Fantasy” and the beautiful “Ashokan Farewell” by Jay Unger.  Poulson told a story behind the music, leading up to the battle of Bull Run and a real letter written home from a soldier to his wife which brought tears to the eyes as Poulson read it, blending in perfectly as concertmaster Kelly Richardson played the opening notes on the violin.

The main selections ended with “America The Beautiful” and “Sweet Land of Liberty.”

It proved to be a highly entertaining, enriching, and deeply moving evening of music.

Copyright 2012, Daddysangbassdude Media


My music playlist for today (June 3, 2012 edition)

I guess you could say I’m “burnin’ for Buddy” today in my classic jazz selections.

The Lionel Hampton Art Tatum Buddy Rich Trio
The Lionel Hampton Art Tatum Buddy Rich Trio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Buddy Rich, that is.

This one’s dedicated to my father-in-law, Doug Wareing, 84 years young and still leading two bands up in southeastern Idaho.  Of course, one of those bands is your classic big band jazz outfit.

Doug can and does play a variety of instruments when he’s not conducting.  Probably his favorite of all to play would be the drums.  And Buddy Rich is among his favorites.

Years ago, I took it upon myself to look for a Christmas gift to Doug from our family.  My search naturally led me to a music store, where I found a CD of modern rock and jazz drummers paying tribute to the master.  The CD was called “Burning For Buddy,” with current drum masters like Neil Peart and Bill Bruford — among many others — showing just how much Buddy Rich influenced them in their own playing.

Buddy could be a tough bugger to work with.  He wasn’t shy about giving musicians a dressing down if he didn’t feel they were doing things the right way.  For the most part, however, you wanted to work with him.  It looked great on a musician’s resume.

It was about the closest thing to drumming perfection you could get.