Symphony concert is ‘Musical Postcards’

Postcards are mementos of travels taken. Souvenirs of places visited and vacations to remember. In this spirit, Fort Dodge Area Symphony will present its concert, “Musical Postcards,” at 3 p.m. on March 3 at the Fort Dodge Middle School, 800 N. 32nd St.

The Fort Dodge String Orchestra consisted of 20 members when it was first conceived by Paul Franklin in 1949 and has grown into a full orchestra which includes over 50 members. Now conducted by Joshua Barlage, who is in his sixth season, the orchestra will perform Musical Postcards which will include pieces written by composers in the spirit of the music of other cultures. Some pieces were written as musical tributes, while others simply capture the sounds and style of that culture’s indigenous music.

As part of the concert, the orchestra will perform “Egyptian March,” composed by Austrian Johann Strauss. This piece was written as part of the dedication ceremonies for the opening of the Suez Canal. It has an exotic, but not necessarily authentic, Egyptian sound. Also planned for the performance is Tchaikovsky’s “Marche Slav,” which was written as a musical symbol of Russia’s support of their Serbian neighbors in their fight against the Ottoman Empire.

While the orchestra continues to perform the classics easily recognized by its audience, it also seeks out new works to perform. With this goal in mind, Barlage was led to the Iowa Composers Forum (ICF). Founded in 1987, this organization promotes the creation and performance of new concert music of all styles by composers of all ages. The seven composers who founded the organization wanted to create an environment for the performance and dissemination of music composed by Iowans. More than 100 concerts and tour recitals, featuring over 800 works of new music by Iowa composers, have been presented since its inception.

This commission was a joint project between the Iowa Composers Forum, the Cherokee Symphony, the Oneota Valley Symphony, and the Fort Dodge Area Symphony, with the intent of offering an Iowa-based composer the opportunity to compose a work that would have three immediate performances within one season. Too often, a newly composed piece of music does not receive any additional performances after its premiere. This commission consortium was created with the goal of demonstrating how orchestras, especially community-based ensembles, schools and music advocacy organizations, banding together can produce a more meaningful and impactful artistic experience for communities and for the amazing artists living and working in Iowa.

Through this forum, the orchestra conducted a blind search for a newly commissioned piece. Without knowing the names of the composers, the orchestra listened to multiple works submitted by more than a dozen composers. Interestingly, a composer with which Barlage was already familiar, ended up being the overall favorite. The orchestra is proud to present a brand new piece by composer, Joshua Reznicow, entitled “Symphonic Overture (Themes from the American Spirit).” Reznicow is the director of orchestral activities for Linn-Mar High School in Marion. The Fort Dodge Area Symphony will be the second in order of local premieres of Reznicow’s “Symphonic Overture.” The Cherokee Symphony will perform this piece in late February and the Oneota Valley Community Orchestra will perform this piece in April.

Joining the symphony as guest violinist is Renee Brechtel. Brechtel was a previous FDAS Young Artists Competition winner. Each season the orchestra presents a competition for Iowa high school and college age musicians where they compete for the chance to perform a movement of a concerto with the orchestra. This tradition was borne after the first young artist, Steven Zehr, performed with the orchestra at age 19 in 1964. Since then, there have been more than 144 soloists featured at the annual Young Artists’ Concert.

“It is a special thrill to have the opportunity to invite a previous winner back to perform a full scale concerto,” said Barlage. In this case, the piece is the fiery “Symphonie Espagnole” by the French composer Eduardo Lalo. In keeping with the concert theme, Lalo’s piece conjures all of the pizazz and bravado often associated with the music of Spain.

The concert will close with Saint-Saens’s “Bacchanale” from his opera “Sampson and Delilah.” This wild and rompus dance will have the Fort Dodge Area Symphony swirling into a full-blown musical frenzy.

Join the Fort Dodge Area Symphony March 3, as it travels to exotic places near and far through its “Musical Postcards.” Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at the venue, Fort Dodge Middle School, on the day of the concert.