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SPOTLIGHT
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Hays Symphony, FHSU choirs inspire all

Published on -5/16/2013, 9:44 AM

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A Saturday or two ago, the Hays Symphony Orchestra, the combined FHSU choirs and Smoky Hill Chorale, plus local and guest soloists, inspired each other and the audience in an unforgettable season-ending concert.

The semester's final concert is also a time for awards. Graduating senior Steven Cornwell won the Donald Stout Award for outstanding contributions to choral music, and violinist Naomi Kitzis won the Edwin Moyers award for excellent performance in the Hays Symphony Orchestra. Heartfelt congratulations to both, as well as to graduating senior Polly Li and all members of the class of 2013.

Piano soloist Irena Ravitskaya and the Hays Symphony, conducted by Benjamin Cline, gave an electrifying performance of the second piano concerto by Sergei Rachmaninov. It was one of those rare occasions when a concerto worked just as it should: The soloist inspired the orchestra and the orchestra inspired the soloist. They negotiated the sumptuous melodies (think of "All by Myself" or "Full Moon and Empty Arms," which both borrow themes from this concerto), lush harmonies and thrilling cadenzas with skill and feeling. There was a brief pause at the conclusion while the audience caught their breath, rose to their feet and rewarded the musicians with wave upon wave of applause replete with cries of bravo and stomping of feet.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Vesperae Solennes de Confessore" and "Solemn Vespers of the Confessor," an elaborate setting of six psalms for soloists, chorus and orchestra, comprised the rest of the program. Under the baton of choral director Terry Crull, all performed well and more than did justice to the work. The soloists, soprano Ivalah Allen; guest artist mezzo soprano Lee Ann Scherlong of Denver; tenor Joseph Perniciaro; and baritone Steven Taylor, also of Denver, did a fine job. Special praise to soprano Allen for flawlessly performing the elaborate cadenzas of her part (legend has it Mozart hated sopranos -- or maybe loved them). While the choral texts are sung without repetitions or ornaments, the contrapuntal composition of the individual parts, as well as the complexity of the orchestral component, belie their apparent simplicity. Both chorus and orchestra met the work's challenges with great success. The audience applauded their efforts with gusto.

Ruth Firestone is a supporter of music and theater in Hays. She can be contacted at rfiresto@fhsu.edu.

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