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Wind symphony concert sweet to the last note

12/8/2013

An assurance from conductor Lane Weaver that gorgeous instrumental arrangements blended with equal parts talent and hard work could "make you a better person," surely was fulfilled Friday evening when the Fort Hays Symphonic Winds and Wind Ensemble warmed the stage of Beach Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

The program featured a lovely mix of musical styles, from the whimsical, almost maddeningly busy "Downey Overture" by Oscar Navarro to the lyrical layering of Eric Whitacre's "October."

The familiar refrain of "It is Well with My Soul" rang through David Holsinger's "On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss." The melody of the much-loved hymn, performed by the Symphonic Winds, was treated to lush harmonies and rich instrumentation, giving audience members a few soul-satisfying moments.

"Trail of Tears," a tone poem for wind band by James Barnes and conducted by Nathan Froebe, created a musical experience for audience members both compelling in its historical context and singular in style.

The composition, performed by the Symphonic Winds, depicts the 150th anniversary of the forced march of members of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes more than 1,500 miles in the bitter winter of 1838-39.

More than 4,000 American Indians died of starvation, exhaustion and exposure when relocated from the southeastern U.S. to the eastern part of Oklahoma by U.S. Army troops.

A haunting flute solo set the tone for the selection, which moved through deep rhythmic bars, followed by chilling bugle calls. The heartbroken Cherokee chant, recited by band members, was emotionally riveting.

"Let us mourn those who have died," the poem's translation says. "Let us mourn those who are dying.

"Let us mourn those who must endure."

The work was a stunning reminder music has the power to fuel the imagination along the harrowing journey of a nation more than a century lost.

As the evening progressed, the musical diversity of the FHSU Wind Ensemble was showcased in the robust rhythms and broad brush-strokes of "An Original Suite," by Gordon Jacob.

Audience members then were treated to a "can't help my smile" selection, "Ride," by Samuel Hazo, where Jeff Jordan's distinct and delightful conducting style punctuated the intensity of the ensemble's performance.

It was a riotous ride, and well worth the trip to the last note, which hung in the air like a big steely exclamation point.

* * *

The dedication and gifts of the FHSU Music and Theatre Department play on today, with two performances of the 28th annual Cathedral Concert.

Staged in Victoria's historic St. Fidelis Catholic Church, the performances will be at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

The event will feature the Fort Hays Singers, the FHSU Concert Choir, and Smoky Hill Chorale, all conducted by Terry Crull, associate professor of music and theater.

Included in the programs will be the Hays High School Chamber Singers, Hays Middle School Honor Choir, FHSU Brass Choir, the String Sinfonietta and FHSU music faculty members.

Dawne Leiker is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.