Life Is A Blend of Rehearsals and Performances

Sam Black

Many of you, Reader readers, are fully aware that I spend equal parts of my time in rehearsal, in performance, and/or in attendance with music and drama opportunities around our region. Sometimes I can leave readers giddy by attending four or five events during a week. This past week found me engaged in rehearsals or performances every night except Wednesday, and even that was a fluke! Consequently, I had to forego a few concerts and plays that I would like to have attended. Hi-ho the glamorous life, as the chorus in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music proclaim!

A 25th Anniversary with Epic Legends for Wind Orchestra

This past Saturday night, I was indeed present at the Tales from Tolkien concert presented by the Twin Ports Wind Orchestra, led by music director Mark Whitlock, along with guest conductor Bill Alexander from Marshall High School. Two amazing stories were told in music, the first being Of Sailors and Whales, a five movement 1990 composition by W. Francis Mcbeth. Five scenes from H. Melville’s Moby Dick were depicted: the solid character of Ishmael, the foreign mystery of the harpoonist Queequeg, the sung prayer of the priest Father Mapple, the autocratic Captain Ahab, and the unpredictable White Whale himself.


The second story was the Symphony No. 1, The Lord of the Rings, composed in 1988 by Dutch composer Johan de Meij.

These five movements shared musical images of the wise Gandalf, the mysteries of Lothlorien, the warped world-view of the Gollum, the intimidating Journey in the Dark, and a grand hymn to the Hobbits themselves. With soprano saxophone, Robert Foster had some very intense outbursts from Gollum, and at least eight percussionists were required to create sounds from at least twice that many instruments.

The concert also featured the Emperata Overture (Claude T. Smith) and Lightning Field (John Mackey), performed by the Marshall High School Band, led by Bill Alexander. The sudden bursts of thunder and lightning in the New Mexico desert were particularly exciting to hear. A couple of Karl King marches, and a concert opener titled Conzensus (Jan Van der Roost) added to the variety of the evening.

I am particularly fond of concert Band music, with different sizes of clarinets, saxophones, flutes, bassoons, along with trumpets, trombones, French horns, euphoniums, tubas, oboes and lots of percussion. The orchestral/instrumental colors outnumber the rainbow rings and resonate long after the music has stopped. On Saturday, June 04, 2016, plan to hear a newly commissioned piece from British composer Philip Sparke titled The Legend of Spirit Island (inspired by a Dakota/Ojibwe legend from the mouth of the St. Louis River).

On Stage from East to West

Meanwhile, the iconic play Rhinoceros will be on stage at UMD’s Dudley Center through March 20. Wise Fool Shakespeare will have Romeo and Juliet in love and death together at the Lincoln Park Middle School Auditorium through March 20 as well. Trumpeter Tom Harrell will be back at the Head of the Lakes Jazz Concert on Friday night, March 18 at Weber Music Hall on the UMD campus.

This coming Friday and Saturday(March 18 and 19) Arrowhead Chorale and Music Director Stanley Wold will be joined again by the bluegrass band Monroe Crossing in a festive program at the Duluth Depot Great Hall starting at 7:30 both nights. A new choral Te Deum by Minneapolis composer Carol Barnett will be featured in this program called Mortals & Angels.

As winter recedes, wander out into the rich world of the arts, right here in the Duluth-Superior Arts Colony, so to speak.