Friday, October 30, 2015

"Cowboy Overture" and Much More by the ISO on Stage in Bigfork

The “Cowboy Overture” by John Williams is one of a wide range of selections planned by the Itasca Symphony Orchestra (ISO) during their November visit to the Edge Center. The ISO concert in Bigfork will be under the direction of Keith Swanson. Besides the “Cowboy Overture,” there will be Schumann’s Concerto for Four Horns, the Hindemith March from Symphonic Metamorphosis, and Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins. This music has been chosen to include something for frequent concert goers and provide an introduction to those “trying out” a different side of music. The performance will be November 15 at 3PM.  Ticket prices are $10 for adults $5 for children.

Shown above at the Edge in 2012, the ISO was established in 1981 as the Itasca Orchestral Society by a group of teachers, musicians, and music lovers. It is presently part of the Itasca Orchestra and Strings Program (IOSP). Besides its symphony orchestra, IOSP enrolls students for lessons in violin, viola, cello and string bass. From the beginning, IOSP has staged three to four symphony concerts per year collaborating with guest and local artists. For the Edge Center concert the Itasca Symphony Orchestra will be comprised of musicians from Itasca County and others mostly from the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Keith Swanson has stood on the podium of the Itasca Symphony Orchestra since 1992. He received his under graduate degree from the University of Minnesota and his Master’s Degree in Educational Instruction from the University of Wisconsin Superior. He is currently Director of Music at Hermantown High School.  He also has conducted the UMD Symphony Orchestra and orchestras for the Northland Opera Theater Experience and Colder by the Lake. As Music Director of Duluth’s Lyric Opera of the North (LOON), he has conducted many of their productions and, once each summer you may also catch him playing French Horn in the Coleraine City Band under the direction of ISO’s trombone player, Tom Patnaude.

Concertmaster Mary LaPlant has been with the Itasca Symphony Orchestra since 1988. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a major in forestry and minor in music, she has combined her classical training with a love of fiddling. She is the three-time state fiddle champion. She was last on the Edge stage this summer as part of the Pat Surface concert.


Some of the following will be in the program concert notes, some from internet sources. The order shown here is not necessarily the order of performance.

Schumann Concerto for four horns. By German composer Robert Schumann (above) is in three movements and often noted for its expressive, lyrical quality and harmonic innovation. The work is a rare showpiece for the French horn, which requires not one soloist but four skilled players, and for this reason, this is a rarely performed work. The first movement is lively and energetic and introduces the horn quartet. The oboe, cello and viola open the second movement with a breath taking theme which is taken up by the horns. The second and third movements are linked together without pause and the work closes with the vibrant energy of the first movement. References: concert notes and

The four featured horn players for the Schumann Concerto are: Michael Alexander, Alison Akins, Deb Rausch and Deena Skaja. Alexander currently performs with the Minnesota Opera and the Minnesota Orchestra; Akins performs with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (New York); Rausch teaches horn at the University of Wisconsin Superior; and Skaja has played as the featured soloist with the ISO many times since moving to Grand Rapids in 1995.

Vivaldi’s Concerto for Four Violins. The virtuoso violinist composer (above) wrote this work early in his career and it contributed to his international reputation.  Of Vivaldi’s concertos there were relatively few for four violin soloists. This concerto captures the listener’s attention with the opening dialogue among the soloists. The piece has a rhythmic intensity with beautifully expressive lyrical moments. This music will showcase the ISO’s Strings Program instructors Sahara Kowitz and Debbie Losik, along with Mary LaPlant and Kristine Arntson. Sarah is the Director of String Instruction, and Debbie Losik is the Instructor who heads up the strings program in Bigfork, which has 10 students this year. Mary LaPlant is Concertmaster and Kristine Arntson has played in the ISO and not missed a concert since moving to Grand Rapids in 1998. Reference concert notes and

John Williams’ Cowboy Overture. This is light music for just the fun of listening by one of this century’s premiere composers. For a career that spanned five decades, it is a shame that John Williams (above) worked on only five westerns. It is remarkable how this music can make “seeing” huge sweeping plains with rolling hills, horses, cowboys, and a light-gentle-tenderness mixed with action...and everything else a John Wayne Western often includes. For this music, close your eyes and find out if the score indeed meets the challenge. Reference  http: //

Paul Hindemith (above) was a rare musician known not only for his talent as a composer, but for his work as a professional violinist and violist, a pianist, conductor, and teacher. He could play virtually every instrument in the orchestra; if he was unfamiliar with one, he would take a week or so to master it. Hindemith collaborated with choreographer Leonid Massine on a ballet utilizing music of Carl Maria von Weber. The project was eventually scrapped due to artistic differences between the parties. Hindemith felt he was just being used as an arranger, while Massine found the music too complex for a choreographed dance. The musical ideas were salvaged, three years later, when Hindemith completed the work to which you are listening this evening, his Symphonic Metamorphosis (1943).  Reference concert notes.

                               Above is the ISO at the Edge in 2012.

The music is selected so that it can be appreciated the first time you hear it. And with this selection the audience will have a different experience with each piece. Come and see what we mean at the Edge Center in Bigfork on Sunday, November 15th at 3PM.

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