The Dearborn Symphony, achieved a great performance, just in time for the holiday season Nov. 22 at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
The symphony, under the expert baton of Music Director and Conductor Steven Jarvi, along with guest baritone Jonathan Lasch, highlighted the music of Leonard Bernstein, George Walker, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin.
“I want the audience to remember that America has its own distinct musical tradition now in the 20th and 21st century full of beloved and beautiful music,” Jarvi said.
The night’s performance opened with “West Side Story Overture,” a delightful combination of Bernstein’s beloved scores. The relationship between the symphony and the conductor was kinetic and masterful. The contemporary theme of Bernstein’s modern day “Romeo and Juliet” were expertly collaged in the opening.
“‘West Side Story’ was the music we played at our wedding so it always holds a special place in my heart,” Jarvi said.
Walker’s “Lyric for String” followed. The somber and meditative nature of the work was a thoughtful contrast to the opening piece. The score gave rise to a harmonic blend of sound that unwound and built as the composition unfolded. Walker was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1996.
“This is a perfect example of a hidden gem in the cannon of American music,” Jarvi said. “I find this piece easily as beautiful as the more famous ‘Adagio for Strings’ by Samuel Barber.”
Lasch sang Aaron Copland’s variety of Old American Songs, “Simple Gifts” (Shaker song), “The Dodger” (camping song), “Long Time Ago” (ballad), “I Bought Me a Cat,” The Little Horses” (lullaby), “Ching-A-Ring Chaw” (minstrel song), “At the River” (hymn tune) and “Zion’s Walls” (revivalist song).
Lasch took us back to another time in American history – where the songs were as big as the awakening nation. His voice was rich and robust. He was playful and spot on, a delight.
“I love these songs and find them very poignant and engaging,” Jarvi said.
After the intermission, the second half of the evening’s performance began with the music scholarship award presentations.
“We are grateful to all the local service organizations and symphony patrons that sponsored all the scholarships,” Dearborn Symphony President Sandy Butler told the audience. “The presentation of music scholarships to thirteen local students’ underscores Dearborn’s Symphony commitment to youth music development.”
The performance closed with Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” Jarvi gave an informative narrative that was fun and grounded in Gershwin’s European experience, taking the hardy audience in attendance closer to the mindset of the famous composer.
“I wanted to bring the audience inside this great music by Gershwin and present them with the narrative the piece seems to reveal,” Jarvi said. “The audience response was overwhelmingly positive.”
Mark your calendar for Feb. 14, as the Dearborn Symphony along with guest violinist Debra Terry Spencer, will present “For the Love of Beethoven” at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center, 15801 Michigan Ave. The night’s performance promises to be a glorious evening of musical highlights featuring the work of Beethoven, Hayden, and Tchaikovsky.
Tickets range from $15 to $35 and can be bought in advanced or at the door. For more information call 313-565-2424, or go to dearbornsymphony.org.