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FHSU choirs, Hays Symphony end season in triumph


On Saturday evening, more than 150 students, faculty and local residents joined forces in a memorable masterworks concert. The combined choirs, directed by Terry Crull, sang "The Peaceable Kingdom" by Randall Thompson, and the Hays Symphony Orchestra played Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition," arranged for orchestra by Maurice Ravel.

Both compositions were inspired by works of visual art -- the Thompson by Edward Hicks's painting "The Peaceable Kingdom" and the Mussorgsky by an exhibition of paintings, drawings and other items by Victor Hartmann. This, in turn, inspired students in the FHSU art department to create and exhibit some of their own work loosely related to the topics. While their exhibit, coordinated by Joel Dugan, hardly was enough to cause the audience to merge sight and sound (synesthesia), it certainly added a pleasantly innovative dimension to the concert. The audience compensated for deficiency in size with an abundance of enthusiasm.

The choirs gave a magnificent performance of the "Kingdom," which uses Isaiah 11, "The wolf shall be a guest of the lamb," as a point of departure for a symmetrical contrast of the fate of the wicked -- movements 1-4 -- with that of the virtuous -- movements 5-8. The work is sung unaccompanied and contains many difficult harmonies, as well as changes in mood, tempo and volume. The choirs met each challenge with ease and received an ovation for their efforts.

Following the performance, Maestro Crull announced Michael Ritzel as this year's winner of the prestigious Donald Stout Outstanding Choral Musician Award.

After naming Naomi Kitzis winner of the Edwin Moyers Outstanding Orchestral Musician Award, Maestro Benjamin Cline and the Hays Symphony Orchestra concluded the concert with a stirring rendition of "Pictures." Mussorgsky originally composed the work as a piano suite. Ravel later orchestrated it to reveal "the rich palette of instrumental effects which only an orchestra can provide" (program note). A stately "Promenade" connects the 10 musical evocations of various sketches and objects in a memorial exhibition of Hartmann's work. In the 10th movement, the "Promenade" theme widens to include the whole orchestra in a powerful description of the great gates of Kiev. The orchestra's performance earned sustained standing applause.

* Don't miss the FHSU Bands Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Ruth Firestone is a supporter of the arts and frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.