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Orchestra Celebrates 10th Season with Louima Lilite

April 5, 2011

The OBU-Shawnee Community Orchestra will present its 10th Season Spring Concert Tuesday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. on the OBU campus 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 Dmitri Shostakovich, Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, Percy Grainger, Stephen Sondheim, George Gershwin, Amadeus Mozart and Benjaman Britten. Conductor of the ensemble since its inception is Dr. Jim Hansford, recently retired Burton Patterson Professor of Music and director of bands at OBU from 1990-2010.

A special highlight of this year's program will include a guest appearance by tenor soloist, Dr. Louima Lilite, in a performance of "Songs of a Wayfarer" by Gustav Mahler. Lilite will sing three of the four songs in the cycle pinned by Mahler between 1883 and 1885 and scored for voice and orchestra in the 1890s. The words are Mahler's own, and tell of a young man's rejection by his beloved. Mahler wrote for a large orchestra, but one which is used with great economy and harmonic clarity rather than weight.

Lilite, quickly becoming a Shawnee favorite performer, is in his third year as assistant professor of music in OBU's College of Fine Arts. He earned his doctorate in April 2008 at the prestigious Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Carol Webber. He has been praised for his "warm tone and sensitive interpretation" and "his clear voice [which] soars and carries." A seasoned performer, he is known as a recitalist, soloist, pianist and accompanist, performing in master classes with some of the world's most esteemed vocalists. This will be Lilite's second appearance with the OBU-Shawnee Community Orchestra, having performed a work from Haydn's "The Creation" on the 2008 Hanging of the Green program.

Works for the full orchestra on the program include: "Academic Festival Overture" and the "Fourth Movement" from the First Symphony by Brahms; "Finale" from Symphony No. 5 by Shostakovich and the Mahler work. Works for the string orchestra will include: "Prelude II" by Gershwin; "Send in the Clowns" by Sondheim, "Mock Morris" by Grainger and "The Salley Gardens" by Britten. Additionally, a movement from a Mozart string quartet will be presented by our string principals: Martin Dalton and Marat Gabdullen, violins; Ana Maria Vandervort, viola; and Philipp Gulidov, cello.

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 and members from the community.

The orchestra's string section is comprised of about 22 players. Along with that, there is the full complement of the standard orchestral wind and percussion sections. Orchestra members range in age from 17 to 70 years old and include people from a wide range of professions including educators, private music teachers, doctors, OBU staff members and homemakers.

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 Greensleaves" in addition to other special Christmas program numbers. It 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, 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.