The OBU / Shawnee Community Orchestra’s 17th season spring concert is scheduled for Tuesday, April 17, in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. The musical evening will feature works by some of the world’s most famous composers, including Vivaldi, Gershwin, Copland, Borodin and Morricone. The concert is free and open to the public.
One highlight of the evening will include a performance of Copland’s “Lincoln Portrait,” an emotionally moving work about our 16th president. Conductor of the ensemble since its inception is Dr. Jim Hansford, retired Burton H. Patterson Professor of Music and director of bands emeritus, 1990-2010.
Works featured on the program include “Funeral March of a Marionette” by Charles Gounod, “Concerto for 3 Violins” by Vivaldi, “An American Elegy” by Frank Ticheli, “Polovtsian Dances” by Alexander Borodin, “An American in Paris” by George Gershwin, “O Magnum Mysterium” by Morten Lauridsen, “Lincoln Portrait” by Aaron Copland and “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone.
Principal oboist Caitie Bryson will be the featured soloist for “Gabriel’s Oboe,” a lyrical melody which served as the main theme for the 1986 film “The Mission,” nominated for best picture and best original score.
Dr. Benjamin Shute, assistant professor of music, director of the preparatory department and concertmaster for the orchestra, will feature alongside OBU music major Lara Stewart and principal second violinist Rebecca Panayiotou on the Baroque period piece, “Concerto for 3 Violins.”
Hansford praised the soloists for their hard work and dedication to such a distinctive piece of music.
“It is quite a challenging work for the solo violinists,” he said. “Dr. Shute must be commended for his work in rehearsing and preparing the soloists.”
In response to the recent tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a very poignant memorial work, “An American Elegy,” was added to the program. The work by Frank Ticheli was commissioned in 1999, soon after the school shooting at Columbine High School. The concert, which will take place three days before the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, will serve as a reminder of how fragile and precious life is.
“I felt this significant composition written for Columbine students would be quite appropriate at this time to honor the memory of the 17 victims who lost their lives in Parkland this past February,” Hansford said. “I feel confident that the audience will find the work quite reflective and emotionally moving.”
Dr. Christopher Mathews, dean of the Warren M. Angell College of Fine Arts, will join the ensemble as narrator for the overwhelmingly popular “Lincoln Portrait,” written in 1941 by Aaron Copland. The narration includes quotes from the Gettysburg Address and other documents and speeches by President Abraham Lincoln.
The OBU / Shawnee Community Orchestra was organized to provide a unique performance collaboration between amateur and professional musicians in the greater Shawnee area by presenting quality performances of orchestral literature, and to serve as a laboratory for music majors and other music students at OBU. About half of the ensemble members come from the surrounding communities, including, Norman, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Edmond, Harrah, Dale and Shawnee, while the remaining members are OBU students and faculty. Orchestra members range in age from 16 to more than 70 years old and encompass a wide range of professions, including educators, private music teachers, band directors, doctors, students, homemakers and more.
The orchestra’s string section is comprised of about 22 players. String principals include concertmaster Ben Shute, violin; Rebecca Panayiotou, violin; Aaron Bushong, viola; and Thresa Swadley, cello. A full complement of the standard orchestral wind and percussion sections join the strings.
The community orchestra was organized in the fall of 2001 with the assistance of a grant from the Kirkpatrick Foundation in Oklahoma City. The orchestra’s inaugural performance was during the 2001 Hanging of the Green Christmas presentation at OBU. In 2012, the ensemble was chosen to perform as an honor organization at the Oklahoma Music Educators Convention in Tulsa. The ensemble rehearses once weekly for two hours on Monday evenings and follows the OBU academic calendar, which allows for 10 to 12 rehearsals each semester.
Founding conductor Dr. Jim Hansford, a respected educator-conductor for more than 45 years, was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Music Educators “Hall of Fame.” He earned a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Southern Mississippi. He also earned both a Master of Music Education and Doctor of Philosophy in music from the University of North Texas. His 46-year teaching career includes seven years in the public schools, 20 years at OBU, and director of bands positions at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Wayland Baptist University (Texas). Hansford served for many years as conductor of the Texas and Oklahoma Baptist All-State Symphonic Bands including tours to England, British Columbia, Boston and Phoenix.