Despite a cloudburst just before show time, a fairly large crowd attended the opening gala of the Hays Symphony Saturday evening. Music lovers for miles around were eagerly anticipating the formal debut of conductor Brian Buckstead and a concert of old favorites. (Buckstead already had shared the podium at last month’s pre-season pops concert.)

Ironically, the first warhorse to be trotted out was the “William Tell" Overture by Gioachino Rossini. A muted ripple of amusement went through the audience as the overture began by portraying a thunderstorm. Probably due to the weather and opening night jitters, the orchestra was quite skittish, but bravely carried on to the overture’s irresistible concluding minutes. “William Tell” is Rossini’s last opera. Having become famous for light, crowd-pleasing operas, he had hoped to gain recognition with more serious “grand” opera. The “William Tell" Overture, which, as Buckstead mentioned, is structured like a symphony, was a good start, but the whole opera has never been a success. It’s again ironic that the overture is known here primarily as accompaniment to western movies and cartoons.

By the time Bedrich Smetana’s “Vltava” “The Moldau,” flowed in, both the storm and the jitters had diminished and the orchestra played much better. “The Moldau” envisions the river that runs through the present-day Czech Republic from the southern mountains north to Prague. It is one of the six symphonic tone poems that comprise “Má Vlast” “My Country.”In the 1870’s, when Smetana composed the series, what is now the Czech Republic was Bohemia, a state of the Habsburg Empire. Smetana, a Nationalist, sought independence for the Czech homeland and culture. “My Country” as a whole expresses his patriotism eloquently. “The Moldau” is a ravishingly beautiful piece that exemplifies the use of folk elements in post-Wagnerian Romantic music.

The concert ended in a good, workmanlike performance of Manuel de Falla’s “The Three-Cornered Hat,” Suites 1 and 2. “Hat,” originally a ballet commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev for the Ballet Russe (1917-19), soon was adapted as two orchestral suites. Falla, like Smetana a Nationalist, structured the story as a series of Spanish dances. The ballet depicts and the suites evoke the tale of how a pompous and lascivious magistrate (whose three-cornered-hat is a symbol of his rank) gets bamboozled by a miller and his wife. Toward the end the audience became a bit restless and awarded the orchestra less applause than they deserved.

Everyone enjoyed the post-concert refreshments sponsored by Werth Wealth Management. We all stayed around for quite awhile, waiting for another severe thunderstorm to mellow and chatting with the orchestra members and other friends.

Many thanks to Auto World (Kay and Dick Werth) for sponsoring the opening gala.

Mark your calendars for the Children’s Halloween Concert,  Oct. 27. The family activities and costume parade begin at 1:30 p.m.; the concert begins at 2:30 p.m. Everything takes place in and around the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center.

Also, please attend the special opening concert of the Dubinsky Classical Music Series, at 7:30 p.m. Friday also in Beach/Schmidt.

Ruth Firestone is a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News