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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Intruder in the Dust Movie

First amazing fact is that “Intruder in the Dust” would be made at all in the racial climate of the forties, second that a major film studio made it, and third that it was made in the Deep South. Not so amazing was that this film did not do well in the theaters, and only time has proven that it is a great film. The movie “Intruder in the Dust” is based on William Faulkner’s novel of the same name and is about a black man accused of murdering a white man in Mississippi. It was made in Faulkner’s hometown, which had no problem proclaiming it was the town of Jefferson named in the book, at least according to one reviewer. The movie involves a community planning to lynch the accused, and three brave white people trying to save him. “Intruder in the dust” will be Shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on November 12th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM at that time, first refused to buy the movie rights of Faulkner’s book because he believed it would not be a success. Through lots of studio politics and arm twisting the movie did get made. The star is Juano Herandez playing Lucas Beauchamp, accused of murdering a white man.  Lucas will not even put up a defense because of his pride. Trying to prove him innocent falls on the shoulders of an unlikely band of “friends” who use some very unlikely ways to try and help. The author William Faulkner was part of the production team who made this film in Faulkner’s hometown of Oxford Mississippi. Reference http: //

Juano Hernández (1896-1970) received a Golden Globe nomination for "New Star of the Year" for his role. The New York Times listed the movie as one of the best for that year. According to Wiki, “Faulkner said of the film: ‘I'm not much of a moviegoer, but I did see that one. I thought it was a fine job. That Juano Hernández is a fine actor…” Fifty years later a film historian, Donald Bogle, wrote about the movie “breaking new ground” and of Hernández's performance being extraordinary. Juano Hernández was a pioneer in the African American film industry. Juano’s career, starting in the silent movie period, made his talking picture debut in the 1927movie titled “The Girl From Chicago.”  Reference:

David Brian (1914-1993) also got a Golden Globe Nomination for his portrayal of the lawyer trying to save Lucas, and is considered Brian’s best performance. He started his career as a song and dance man in vaudeville and in nightclubs, was in the coast guard during WWII and returned to the New York stage after the war. He has some 25 film credits, and was active in television portrayals in both comedy and dramatic roles. Reference:

Claude Jarman, Jr (Born 1934) is also in this movie as one of Lucas’ believers. Claude was in the movie “Yearling” in 1946 and did very well. He also was in a John Wayne movie “Rio Grande” 1950. His role in “Yearling” gained him great reviews and he was awarded with an Academy Juvenile Award. But the studio could not find him continuing work so MGM released him to Republic Studios who cast him in the John Ford “Rio Grande” classic. Claude was discouraged by the movie business and he moved back to Tennessee to finish high school. Following coursework in pre-law at Vanderbilt University, he appeared in Walt Disney's “The Great Locomotive Chase”, which was his final movie. Reference:,_Jr

Part of the review of the movie by Bosley Crowther a New York Time film critic of the period is shown below and gives a feeling of how much Bosely liked the movie. To read the whole review go to:

Intruder in the Dust (1949)
THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Intruder in the Dust,' M-G-M's Drama of Lynching in the South, at the Mayfair

Published: November 23, 1949

“… Producer-Director Clarence Brown has made a brilliant stirring film. Under the title of the novel, it opened at the Mayfair yesterday. And without one moment's hesitation, this corner, still shaking, proclaims that it is probably this year's pre-eminent picture and one of the great cinema dramas of our times.

For here, at last, is a picture that slashes right down to the core of the complex of racial resentments and social divisions in the South—which cosmically mocks the hollow pretense of "white supremacy"—and does it in terms of visual action and realistic drama at its best. As a matter of fact, the deeper meanings might be utterly missed by some who should still find this film a creeping "thriller" that will turn them, temporarily, to stone…”

You can see this movie free of charge and some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday November 12th at 6:30PM. Come and see what the reviewer was talking about.  It will be worth it.