The OBU-Shawnee Community Orchestra will hold its annual spring concert Tuesday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel's Potter Auditorium on the OBU campus in Shawnee. The performance will conclude the orchestra's 14th season. The event is free and open to the public.
A musical potpourri of works has been selected for the performance including an overture-fantasy, a collection of Afro-Cuban dances (conga carnival dance, a son salsa and a mambo), a popular British television series theme, a wind band transcription for orchestra and the music from a world-class Broadway musical production. Specific works featured on the program will include the "Romeo and Juliet Overture" by Tchaikovsky, "Variations on a Korean Folk Song" by John Barnes Chance, "Danzas Cubanas" by Robert Sheldon, "Selections from The Phantom of the Opera" by Andrew Lloyd Webber, and "Downton Abbey - The Suite" by John Lunn. Additionally, two works for string orchestra alone include a unique setting of "Clair de Lune," the celebrated piano work by Claude Debussy, and a new composition by Brian Balmages titled "Lyric Metal."
Dr. Jim Hansford has been the conductor of the ensemble since its inception. Hansford is the retired OBU Burton H. Patterson professor of music and former coordinator of instrumental studies and director of bands from 1990-2010.
"Our string quartet of principal players will present a lovely rendition of Nocturne, the beautiful melody from Alexander Borodin's 'String Quartet in D.' This melody will be recognized by American musical buffs as the basis for the captivating song, 'And This is My Beloved,' from the popular musical Kismet," he said.
As a result of his long career as a wind band conductor, an occasional appearance of a well-known band work that has been transcribed for orchestra will appear on one of his programs. This year will be no exception with the appearance of the longtime band favorite "Variations on a Korean Folk Song," composed in 1965 by John Barnes Chance. It won the American Bandmasters Association's prestigious Oswald Award the following year. It is a set of five variations based on the popular Korean folk song "Arirang," which the composer heard while serving in South Korea with the U.S. Army in the late 1950s. It has been a program staple of advanced bands for contest and festival performances, honor band festivals, springs concerts, and convention programs throughout the world for 50 years. Its use of brilliant orchestration and unique percussion scoring make it a popular listening favorite of all audiences.
According to Hansford, the most challenging work on the program is "Danzas Cubanas," a collection of three dance-like movements celebrating the joy and energy of Afro-Cuban music and the people of this island nation. The opening, intensely fiery conga dance sets the mood, followed by a gentle and alluring son-salsa. The closing dance is a fast-paced mambo. "This is an excellent multi-cultural music experience," said Hansford. "The three interconnected dances feature solos for piano, trombone, flute and trumpet and offer an exciting ending to the evening concert." The four soloists featured are Graeson Griffin, piano; Dusty Higgins, trombone; Carlos Feller, flute; and Michael Brem, trumpet.
The OBU-Shawnee 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, former dean of OBU's Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts. The orchestra provides a unique performance collaboration between amateur and professional musicians in the greater Shawnee area by presenting quality performances of orchestral literature. The orchestra is comprised of OBU students, faculty and alumni as well as members from surrounding communities including McLoud, Ada, Norman, Chandler, Oklahoma City, Tecumseh, Choctaw, Edmond, Harrah, Dale and Shawnee. Since its inception, the orchestra has been an integral part of the annual OBU Hanging of the Green presentation, presenting its inaugural performanc at that event in 2001. In 2012, the ensemble was chosen to perform as an honor organization at the Oklahoma Music Educators Convention in Tulsa.
The orchestra's string section is comprised of around 22 musicians. A full complement of the standard orchestral wind and percussion sections joins the strings. Orchestra members range in age from 18 to more than 70 years old and include educators, private music teachers, band directors, doctors and homemakers. String principals include Hannah Murray (concertmaster) and Kathleen Gallagher, violin; Aaron Bushong, viola; and Thresa Swadley, cello.