Local Orchestra to Present 11th Season Concert

The OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra will present its 11th Season Spring Concert on Tuesday, April 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium. The concert is open to the public, and there is no admission charge.

The program will feature the music of Antonin Dvorak, Johannes Brahms, Camille Saint Saens, George Butterworth, Aaron Copland, Girolamo Frescobaldi, and conclude with a tribute to the music of Henry Mancini. Conductor of the ensemble since its inception is Dr. Jim Hansford, retired Burton Patterson Professor of Music and director of bands at OBU from 1990-2010.

“The orchestra will be performing the first two movements from one of the world’s most famous symphonies,” Hansford said. “Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor (from ‘The New World’) is by far his most popular symphony and one of the most popular in the modern orchestral repertoire.”

Dvorak visited the United States between 1892-95, and this work was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered in December 1893 at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Anton Seidl, Hansford said. The reception was one of thunderous applause between each movement and perpetual cheering. Dvorak felt obliged to stand and bow after each movement.

The obvious influence of folk music and African-American spirituals is most evident in the second movement (“Largo”), Hansford noted. The famous melody of the spiritual-like song “Goin’ Home,” by lyricist William Arms Fisher and adapted my composer Harry Burleigh, was likely based on Dvorak’s Largo theme.

Other works on the program for the full orchestra include: “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Copland; “Toccata” by Frescobaldi; “Hungarian Dance No. 5” by Brahms; “The Banks of Green Willow” by Butterworth; “Bacchanale” from the opera “Samson and Delilah” by Saint Saens; and “A Tribute to Henry Mancini” arranged by Calvin Custer. The string section will be featured on “Fantasia on a 17th Century Tune,” a setting of the hymn tune “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” by Richard Stephan.

The Mancini tribute highlights five themes from classic movies and television series for which he became famous. The themes presented likely will be familiar to the audience: “Baby Elephant Waltz,” “Charade,” “The Pink Panther,” “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Peter Gunn.” Conductor/composer Henry Mancini offered great music for the five decades between 1950 and 1990.

About half of the 50-member ensemble comes from the community including McLoud, Ada, Norman, Chandler, Oklahoma City, Tecumseh, Choctaw, Edmond, Harrah, Dale and Shawnee, while the remaining members are OBU students including music majors. The ensemble divides almost equally between OBU students, faculty and alumni, and members from the community.

The orchestra’s string section is comprised of about 20 players. In addition, there is the full complement of the standard orchestral wind and percussion sections. Orchestra members range in age from 12 years to 70-plus years old and include musicians from a wide range of professions including educators, private music teachers, doctors, OBU staff members and homemakers. String principals include Martin Dalton (concertmaster) and Kathleen Gallagher, violins; Lacie Savage, viola; and Philipp Gulidov, cello.

The first public appearance of the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra was at the 2001 Hanging of the Green program, where it performed the Ralph Vaughan Williams “Fantasia on Greensleeves” in addition to other special Christmas program numbers. The orchestra continues to regularly appear as a primary ensemble at the annual OBU Christmas presentation.

The community orchestra was organized in the fall of 2001 with the assistance of a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation in Oklahoma City. The grant became a reality through the work of Dr. Paul Hammond, retired dean of OBU’s Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts. Now the orchestra is supported by many generous donors from the Shawnee community.

Hansford, a respected educator-conductor for more than 40 years, stays active as a guest conductor, clinician and adjudicator in public schools and churches in the Southwest. He earned the bachelor of music education degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and the master of music education and doctor of philosophy degrees in music from the University of North Texas. His teaching experience includes seven years in the public schools of Brazosport and Denton, Texas, and 36 years at the university level including director of bands positions at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Wayland Baptist University (Texas). Hansford served for many years as conductor of the Oklahoma Baptist All-State Symphonic Band including tours to England and British Columbia and national trips to Boston and Phoenix.