The Golden Age

Marlene’s Musings
October 7, 2019

What do all these pieces have in common?

Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue
Kurt Weill/Bertold Brecht: Threepenny Opera
Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein: Showboat
Copland: Symphony No. 1

1. All were written during a 10-year period of great cultural shift in America – between 1919 and 1929
2. All the composers were in their 20s
3. Each of these pieces broke the mold of what had come before
4. All will be performed on October 13 at Wayzata Community Church at 3 pm

Maria Jette, Bradley Greenwald and Daniel Chouinard – all vital threads in the fabric of Twin Cities culture – will sing, act, discuss, play the piano and accordion to illuminate this remarkable time of upheaval in America.

During this 10-year period, the 18th Amendment (prohibition of intoxicating liquors) and the 19th Amendment (right to vote for women) were passed. It was the dawn of radio and jazz was taking hold as America’s musical voice.

Please join us on October 13. You will leave smarter than when you arrived, you will be amazed by the creative artistry of our soloists and you will be telling your friends that the WSO is the finest community orchestra in Minnesota! I hope you will be there to take it all in.

Concert is free, parking is free, coffee and treats are free at our meet-and-greet reception.

See you there!
– Marlene

Tony Ross – Cellist Extraordinaire

Marlene’s Musings
February 22, 2019

I have known about Tony Ross for years.  When I played clarinet in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, he substituted in the cello section a few times. Soon after, he auditioned for the Principal Cello spot in the Minnesota Orchestra and won.  None of us were surprised.

When I became Music Director of the Wayzata Symphony, I mustered my courage and asked him to play a concerto with us. How lucky we were when he said yes and even suggested to perform David Ott’s Double Concerto with his wife, Beth Rapier, Assistant Principal Cello of MN Orch.

Tony is a musician’s musician – phenomenal technique, gorgeous sound, heart-stopping expression.  But, beyond all of that he is so genuine and generous. He performs with us because he believes in community and that music is for everyone, as performers and listeners. No matter what, it’s all about the music with him. He always offers spot-on, constructive comments to help us lift the music off the page.

His performances of Weinberg’s Fantasy for Cello and Orchestra are coming up soon – February 24 at Wayzata Community Church and March 3 at Orchestra Hall. They will be fifth and sixth times he has performed with us. How lucky for us!

I am so happy we get a chance to showcase his incredible artistry as he performs a piece he requested and one that has never been performed in Minnesota. Who better than Tony Ross to introduce it!

Ralph Vaughan Williams – the People’s Composer

Marlene’s Musings
January 31, 2019

On Feb. 24 (at Wayzata Community Church) and March 3 (at Orchestra Hall) we will be performing Ralph (pronounced “Rafe”) Vaughan Williams masterpiece, Dona Nobis PacemEmploying text from Walt Whitman, John Bight and passages from the Bible, it is a work that was written between the two world wars.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (RVW) was born into England’s upper class – his mother was an heiress to the Wedgewood manufacturing fortune, and his great uncle was Charles Darwin – but he spent a great deal of time travelling the English countryside collecting folk music.  RVW and his lifelong friend, Gustav Holst, dedicated themselves to creating an authentic national British voice rooted in folk song.

Through his discovery and recording of over 800 songs, he found that the modes played a key role. When he was commissioned to create a new version of the English Hymnal, he departed from German influence (largely major/minor tonalities) and included a broader array of recognizable tunes rooted in those ancient modes. The hymnal, created in 1906, remains the central musical source for the Anglican Church and its offshoots.

RVW recognized the debt to the traditions that shaped his musical style and returned the favor through decades of work with volunteer musicians in the huge network of English choral festivals and orchestras. He grasped music’s potential to build community. According to his second wife, Ursula, “He delighted in working with enthusiastic, arts-minded men and women whose voices were (often) not equal to their zeal, and from them he drew major life lessons as well as astonishing results.”

In the preface to English Music, RVW wrote:

“If we want to find the groundwork of our English culture we must look below the surface – not to the grand events chronicled in the newspapers but to the unobtrusive quartet parties which meet week after week to play or sing in their own houses, to the village choral societies whose members trudge miles through rain or snow to work steadily for a concert or competition in some ghastly parish room with a cracked piano and a smelly oil lamp.”

The musicians of the Wayzata Symphony, the Edina Chorale and the Two Rivers Chorale perform with great dedication, talent and passion. They give no less than their very best, especially when they are given the opportunity to perform such a powerful, transformative work exemplifying:

Gorgeous orchestration
Familiar modal musical language
Expansive gestures
Gripping texts of Walt Whitman
Brilliant text painting
An inspiring call to the human spirit in times of darkness.

I think RVW would have loved the collaboration of our three community groups.