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P E T E R D A B R O W S K I Music Director/ Conductor




Concert Etiquette CLAPPING AND SHOWING APPRECIATION - If you are unsure of whether or not clapping is appropriate, follow the lead of the experienced audience members around you. If you are still unsure when to applaud, watch the conductor. When he has dropped his hands down to his sides, the applause may begin. NO RECORDING ALLOWED - Recording of any kind is strictly prohibited due to copyright issues and to not distract the performers. Flash photography is also not allowed. Photos can be taken before and after the performance, as well as during intermission. LEAVING MID-PERFORMANCE - If you must leave during a performance, please do so quietly and quickly, respecting those around you. When reentering, you must wait until the music has stopped or after intermission. CELL PHONES/DIGITAL DEVICES - Cell phones, watch alarms, pagers, cameras, and other electronic devices should be turned off prior to performances in the concert hall. These devices could cause a disturbance and are a distraction to musicians and other patrons. NO FOOD IN THE HALL - The McAllen Performing Arts Center strictly prohibits any food inside the performance hall. Please discard any before you enter the concert. Drinks are permitted in the hall. TALKING/WHISPERING - Even the quietest whisper can be heard in a resonant concert hall. Try to refrain from commenting on the music until the end of the piece. It will give you more to talk about at intermission! COUGHING AND CANDY WRAPPERS - If you have to cough, try to muffle it with your hand or handkerchief. If you can, wait until the end of a movement or during a loud section of the music to muffle that cough. Bring cough drops, but don’t unwrap them during a performance – it can be just as distracting as the cough itself. If coughing persists, discreetly excuse yourself for a few moments for it to subside. CURTAIN CALLS AND ENCORES - If audience enthusiasm remains sustained, after much applause, the performers may return to the stage and resume performance positions, signaling to the audience that they will be performing an encore or bonus performance. Encores generally do not last for very long, and are a great showcase for appreciations. Standing ovations are a wonderful way to express your love of a performance if you have really been swept away. You may hear shouts of “Bravo!” or “Brava!” or “Brave!” This simply means “Well done!”

When in doubt, do not do anything that makes people notice YOU instead of the performers! Thank you from us at Valley Symphony Orchestra and your fellow patrons!


Friday, February 3, 2017 – Star Wars and Galactic Pops VSO Concert IV McAllen Performing Arts Center 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, March 2, 2017 – Dvořák with Opera VSO Concert V Esperanza Medina, mezzo soprano The Valley Symphony Chorale Dr. David Means, Chorale Conductor McAllen Performing Arts Center 8:00 p.m.

Thursday, April 6, 2017 – Romeo and Juliet VSO Concert VI Philip Johnson, Mark Ramirez and Joe Moore, percussionists McAllen Performing Arts Center 8:00 p.m.

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VSO 2016-17 Season



2016-2017 Season The Valley Symphony Orchestra (VSO) strives to improve life in a diverse community through artistic excellence in the performance and preservation of great music as we engage, inspire, and educate the populations of the Rio Grande Valley. Through supporting the VSO, the Children’s Education Concerts and the Sky Tower Club Chamber Concert Series, our mission can be achieved to its highest potential. The corporate entity forming the South Texas Symphony Association (STSA) was originally created in 1976 by community volunteers who not only wanted to maintain a symphonic orchestra in the RGV, but who found a need to support the development of public school string programs, a youth orchestra, summer music programs, chamber concerts and educational concerts. In 2000, the Rio Grande Valley International Music Festival (RGVIMF), also known as the Children’s Education Concerts was formed. In its seventeenth year, the program has provided this unique musical experience to over 110,000 low-income, predominantly Hispanic children, in the Rio Grande Valley that may not ordinarily obtain this cultural experience and musical outlet. The VSO hopes to positively influence the children involved with these programs with the ultimate goal to enhance their outlook on cultural musical experience that would translate into possible music education careers, higher performance in academics and increased school retention. Historically, the VSO apart from showcasing 85+ local, professional, and classically trained musicians from the Rio Grande Valley and 120+ voice, volunteer and community-based vocalists; also takes great pride in exposing the RGV to internationally and critically-acclaimed soloists who perform as guest artists. This year, we will have access to the new McAllen Performing Arts Center, showcasing the Valley Symphony Orchestra in their 65th anniversary season premiere concert - Star Wars and Galactic POPS on February 3, 2017. This facility is two-times larger than the UTRGV Performing Arts Center and we anticipate over 1900 people in attendance for each MPAC concert. The VSO hopes to continue our success in being an important part of the community fabric as it heads into its 65th season with the support of its loyal patronage and business community.

VSO 2016-17 Season


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Welcome to the 2016-17 Valley Symphony Orchestra Season As we enter the second half of the 65th Anniversary season, I invite you to celebrate with us the VSO’s many accomplishments. Over the years, we have been successful in providing superb musical performances with fiercely talented musicians and incredible soloists. In addition, we have continued to focus on music education and exposure to our youth of the Rio Grande Valley. Most importantly, we also celebrate our loyal supporters and patrons, without whom the VSO would not be able to thrive! With the ever-growing demands of social media and instant communication, symphonies have had to evolve to keep up with the digital era. We take great pride in preserving the precision and power of LIVE musical performances and we thank you for allowing us to carve out a small arena in which the VSO can achieve this. As the Maestro describes it, “the VSO concerts generate much passion, in turn this passion fulfills our mission – To engage, inspire and educate through excellence in the performance of great music.” The VSO is committed to its vision of, “improving life in a diverse community through artistic excellence in the performance and preservation of great music.” On behalf of the Valley Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, we pledge to continue to work to protect, preserve, inspire, and educate in the name of great music. With your help we can secure the VSO’s existence for another sixty years. We invite you to enjoy yourselves and we appreciate your faithful devotion to the VSO. - Ernesto Sepulveda

VSO 2016-17 Season


PETER DABROWSKI - Music Director/Conductor The Valley Symphony Orchestra celebrates Maestro Peter Dabrowski’s fifteenth season as Music Director and Conductor. A native of Warsaw, Poland, Dr. Dabrowski continues with an unparalleled commitment to provide exhilarating musical performances and education in the Rio Grande Valley. Additionally, he serves as Associate Dean of the College of Fine Arts, Professor of Music and Conductor of the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Dabrowski is also a renowned guest conductor with critical acclaim and in demand throughout Europe and the United States. Before moving to the Rio Grande Valley, Dr. Dabrowski was the Music Director and Conductor of the American University Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., the American Youth Concert Orchestra in Northern Virginia and the Chicago Philharmonic. “Familiar masterworks are comforting. They often bring us great memories. Unfamiliar music is sometimes difficult to accept. The important thing to remember is that all music affects us. Music is the most universal language. It speaks directly to our hearts, minds, and souls. Music has the power to change lives. The performing orchestra is a very complex and sophisticated team of musicians. As a conductor, it is my task to artistically unify the extraordinary talents of each musician into orchestral harmony.” - Peter Dabrowski

CONDUCTOR EMERITI Dr. Carl Seale † Dr. Christopher Munn

VSO 2016-17 Season


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Violin I Geoffrey Wong, Concertmaster Diana Seitz, Associate Concertmaster Danny Diaz Marvin Eagle Gerardo Garcia Kristen Gerhard Adriana Olivan Carlos Peralez Aldo Peralta James Robertson Kurt Roehm Silvia Tsai

Violin II Alba Madrid-Walburn, Principal Sam Heredia, Assistant Principal Abel Acuna Mirelle Acuna Kelly Alvarado Marina Fernandez Jaime Garza Vicky Martinez Cristian Martinez-Vega Pedro Vera Kayla Villarreal

Viola Jennifer Miller, Co-Principal Linda Sobin, Co-Principal Brian Array Alexis Ayala Juan Castillo Miguel GutiĂŠrrez Valerie Lopez Brian Miller James Wilson

Cello Benjamin Ponder, Principal Tido Janssen, Assistant Principal

Andy Arango Irvin Castillo Anna Chance Abran Garcia Natalie Haugeberg Joe Luna Catherine Norquest-Vasquez

French Horn



Barbara Keller, Principal Carol Brown Gabriel Hernandez Rachel Lovestrand Victor Moyeda Gray Scaglione

David Cassady, Principal Thomas Hudson Salvador Marmalejo Daniel Morehead Victoria Perez Gabriel Pruesse Miranda Sousa

Art Brownlow, Co-Principal Jacob Walburn, Co-Principal Maria Coronado Johnny Munoz

Trombone Jacob Banda, Principal Benjamin Coy William Haugeberg Oscar Herrera

Flute Zynahia Banda, Co-Principal Krista Jobson, Co-Principal Brielle Frost Cassandra Sanchez

Tuba Scott Roeder, Principal



Yingching Jeter, Co-Principal Kelly Leu, Co-Principal Michelle Contreras

English Horn Carlos Cantu

Clarinet Bill O’Neil, Co-Principal Melissa Vaughan, Co-Principal Michael Gersten, Co-Principal William Gillum

Bassoon Art Gonzalez, Co-Principal Carol McNabb-Goodwin, Co-Principal Eric Ehramjian, Co-Principal Cindy Cripps

Philip Johnson, Principal Mauricio Castellano Richard Castillo Virginia Davis David LaClair Angel Martinez Erick Ochoa Adan Rosa III Ron Schermerhorn Ed Trevino Isaac Vasquez

Piano Stacy Kwak, Principal

Harp Alice Keene, Principal

Saxophone Cindy Cripps, Principal VSO 2016-17 Season



Geoffrey Wong

Diana Seitz

Alba Madrid-Walburn

Linda Sobin

Concertmaster First Violin Drs. Tawhid & Michaela Shuaib

Associate Concertmaster First Violin Mr. & Mrs. Gary Gurwitz

Assistant Principal Second Violin Mrs. Trudie Elmore Abbott & Mr. Glynn Morgan

Co-Principal Viola Mr. & Mrs. Kirk Clark

Tido Janssen

David Cassady

Zynahia Banda

Assistant Principal Cello Mrs. Trudie Elmore Abbott & Mr. Glynn Morgan

Principal Bass Mr. & Mrs. Charles E. Thompson, Jr.

Co-Principal Flute Dr. & Mrs. William Gillum

Benjamin Ponder Principal Cello Drs. Tawhid & Michaela Shuaib

Kelly Leu

Barbara Keller

Art Brownlow

Jacob Banda

Philip Johnson

Co-Principal Oboe Loring Cook Foundation

Principal French Horn Mr. & Mrs. Charles E. Thompson, Jr.

Principal Trumpet Mrs. Trudie Elmore Abbott & Mr. Glynn Morgan

Principal Trombone Mr. & Mrs. Joyce & Frank Smith

Principal Percussion Mrs. Trudie Elmore Abbott & Mr. Glynn Morgan


VSO 2016-17 Season


Sam Heredia Assistant Principal Second Violin

Jennifer Miller Co-Principal Viola

Krista Jobson Co-Principal Flute

Yingching Jeter Co-Principal Oboe

Michael Gersten Co-Principal Clarinet

Bill O’Neil Co-Principal Clarinet

Melissa Vaughan Co-Principal Clarinet

Eric Ehramjian Co-Principal Bassoon

Art Gonzalez Co-Principal Bassoon

Carol McNabb Co-Principal Bassoon

Cindy Cripps Principal Saxophone

Jacob Walburn Co-Principal Trumpet

Scott Roeder Principal Tuba

Stacy Kwak Principal Piano

Alice Keene Principal Harp

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VSO 2016-17 Season


DR. DAVID MEANS - Chorale Conductor Dr. David Means is Director of Choral Studies at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, TX and the conductor of the Valley Symphony Chorale. He is also organist at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburg and Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church in McAllen, and recently founded Rio Grande Valley’s premier chamber choir, the Valley Choral Artists. Dr. Means came to south Texas from Austin where he was Head Choral Director of the Grammy Award winning Fine Arts Academy of Westwood High School in the Round Rock ISD. Means has also taught at the University of Southern California, Christopher Newport University, Hill College and has more than fifteen years’ experience successfully teaching public school choirs in Texas and California. Dr. Means earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree in piano and voice from Howard Payne University (teachers included John Ratledge, Elem Ely, Linda Hibbs Dougherty, Alan Smith), a Master of Music degree in Choral Conducting from Baylor University (teachers included Hugh Sanders, Robert Young, Karen Peeler, Joyce Farwell, Joyce Jones) and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music from the University of Southern California (teachers included William Dehning, James Vail, Morten Lauridsen, Bard Suverkrop, Hans Beer). He was awarded the prestigious Outstanding Choral Student Award upon graduating from USC. Means is active as a guest conductor, adjudicator and clinician, having taught and performed across the United States, Europe, Mexico, Canada and Japan. He is active throughout South Texas as guest conductor, adjudicator and workshop leader, and also regularly adjudicates TMEA and UIL events across the state. Last July he served on the international jury of the Preveza International Choral Festival in Preveza, Greece, and next March he will adjudicate the prestigious American Classic Madrigal Festival in San Antonio, TX. Also active as a baritone soloist, Dr. Means has sung as a featured singer with the internationally known Mark Morris Dance Group in two performances with the Virginia Waterfront Arts Festival, and has sung as a professional chorister with the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Virginia Chorale and presently sings with the San Antonio Chamber Choir. Means has premiered works by Morten Lauridsen, Z. Randall Stroope, David Childs and John Rutter, and studied conducting in masterclasses with Helmuth Rilling, Frieder Bernius, Robert Shaw and Paul Salamunovich. Means remains active as a conductor, singer and pianist, and has shared the stage with Quincy Jones, Liza Minneli and Michael Feinstein, and has performed for former president Ronald Reagan.

VSO 2016-17 Season


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2016-2017 VSO CHORALE

Soprano MaryLou Abundis Adriana Arango Sylvia Arguelles Melissa Botello Robyn Cain Vanessa Cano Alyssa Castaneda Deborah Fischer Jennifer Garza Mary H. Garza Raquel Garza Roxanna M. Godinez Maritza Gonzalez Naida Jaggard Dr. Marisa Knox Lizette Ochoa Maldonado Princee Mares Sophia Martinez Hannah Moreno Thalia Morin Kathryn O’Neil Stephanie Oseguera Kathy Pardo Leidy Perez Kimberly Prince Asenett Resendez Vanessa Sepulveda Phyllis Whittaker Ruth Windle

Alto Nami Akazawa Sandra Samara Barba Albeza Barrera Chatelle Bush Erica Careaga Natalie Castellano Megan Cavazos Ruth Crews

Lydia Flores Elsy M. Gallardo Aileen Garza Ixchel Nayeli Gomez Azeneth Herrera Marta Hotz Dr. Krista Jobson Lisa Longoria Suzanne McDonald Esperanza Medina Cristina Mendez Cecilia Molina Alejandra Pacheco Emilia G. Padron LuBeth Perez Michelle Quiroz Lori Rodriguez Flor Saldivar Julia Soper Lori Shontz Iris Soto Jo Ann Watkins Amy Whitehouse

Tenor Dennis Bush Juan Cantu Jr. Shad Comboy Nehemias Corona Jon Corya Patrick Fierro Carlos A. Gonzalez Joseph Hernandez Zach Lewis Antonio Longoria Joseph Longoria Dr. Michael J. McClure Timothy James Martinez Jeff Merwin Eric Ramirez

Michael Sandvik Brandon Tiu Pedro Valdez Gerald Varlack Cristian Velez Leonel M. Villarreal

Bass Victor Alonzo Xavier Alonzo Dr. Andres Amado Robert Burnam Josue Careaga Dr. Daniel Contreras Robert G. Cruhm Carlos Flores Jacob Alexander Flores Christian Garza Niko De La Garza Alejandro Guillen Anthony Lopez Jr. Joseangel Macias Joe Massey Joshua Samaniego Stephen G. Sandoval Jonathan E. Valles Emmanuel Vargas Alejandro Vazquez Marco Velasquez Timothy Watkins Vernon Weckbacher Gregory B. Yacobian

VSO 2016-17 Season



Friday, February 3, 2017 McAllen Performing Arts Center

Star Wars and Galactic Pops STRAUSS

Also sprach Zarathustra - Introduction

GOLDSMITH arr. Custer

Star Trek Through the Years


The Planets Mars, the Bringer of War Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity INTERMISSION


Star Wars Suite Main Title Princess Leia’s Theme The Imperial March - Darth Vader’s Theme Yoda’s Theme Throne Room and End Title

Concert Sponsor

Trudie Elmore Abbott Sponsors

Guest Artist Sponsor

Maestro Sponsor

Wanda Boush

VSO 2016-17 Season


CONCERT IV PROGRAM NOTES Richard Strauss Born June 11, 1864, Munich: Died September 8, 1949, Garmisch Also Sprach Zarathustra, Opus 30 After only one rehearsal, it was instantly clear that Strauss had crafted a masterpiece in his orchestral tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra. His enthusiastic letter to his wife Pauline glowed with happiness as he reported the warm reception the piece had received from the members of the Frankfurt City Orchestra and from invited guests listening to the rehearsal from the audience: “Zarathustra is glorious—by far the most important of all my pieces, the most perfect in form, the richest in content, and the most individual in character. The beginning is glorious, all the many passages for the string quartet have come off capitally; the Passion theme is overwhelming, the Fugue spine-chilling, the Dance Song simply delightful, I’m enormously happy and very sorry that you can’t hear it…in short, I’m a fine fellow, and feel just a little pleased with myself.” His high opinion was confirmed a few days later at the wildly successful premiere in Frankfurt in November of 1896, and numerous performance requests began rolling in. Strauss derived the form of Also Sprach Zarathustra from Franz Liszt’s orchestral works, which, in turn, had grown from the tradition of descriptive symphonies and overtures reaching back to the Baroque era. Many composers had written pieces depicting poems, stories, pictures, or plays, but it was Liszt who developed the sectional, one-movement form we now recognize as the late Romantic tone poem. Strauss pushed the limits of both Liszt’s ideas and the nature of programmatic music by using philosophy as his extra-musical source, thus dispensing with the sectional divisions that came naturally with narrative works in preference for a freeflowing form mimicking the boundless independence of philosophical thought. His primary influence was Friedrich Nietzsche’s four-part novel Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen, which was written between 1883 and 1885 to make a statement against formalized religion while exploring the nature of human existence, topics on which Strauss shared many common sentiments with the philosopher. As the composer explained in a program note from 1896, his intent was to “convey in music an idea of the evolution of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of development, religious as well as scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the Superman.” Most listeners today recognize this piece by its famous opening prologue, which was immortalized in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Strauss referred to this introductory music as his “sunrise” motif, a powerful theme announcing the dawn of man through formidable chords that fluctuate between C minor and C major.


VSO 2016-17 Season

CONCERT IV PROGRAM NOTES Alexander Courage Born December 10, 1919, Philadelphia: Died May 15, 2008, Pacific Palisades Dennis Mc Carthy Born 1945 Jerry Goldsmith Born February 10, 1929, Los Angeles: Died July 21, 2004, Beverly Hills Jay Chattaway Born July 8, 1946, Monongahela Star Trek Through the Years The world of Star Trek currently spans thirteen feature films and six longrunning television series, with more to come in the near future. This futuristic world of adventures and calamities has clearly captured the hearts and minds of generations of viewers, not in small part because of the outstanding music that has accompanied the many iterations of the show. Calvin Custer’s medley of themes from this beloved series gathers some of the most memorable tunes penned since Star Trek first aired in 1966, composed by some of the great composers of Hollywood scoring. In addition to Alexander Courage’s main theme from the original show, we can enjoy selections from Dennis McCarthy’s music for Deep Space 9 and the film Star Trek Generations, Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek The Motion Picture, and Jay Chattaway’s haunting Ressikan flute melody heard in the episode The Inner Light from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Gustav Holst Born September 21, 1874, Cheltenham: Died May 25, 1934, London The Planets, Opus 32 Though Holst composed numerous pieces throughout his long career, The Planets remains his most recognized and admired composition. It was written between 1914 and 1917 during the height of World War I, a time when many musicians were away from London supporting the war effort. Holst knew it was unlikely that he could assemble the massive orchestral forces necessary to perform The Planets during wartime, so he composed leisurely around his busy teaching schedule. The genesis for the work came during Holst’s trip to Spain in the spring of 1913, which he undertook with a small group of talented English

VSO 2016-17 Season


CONCERT IV PROGRAM NOTES artists. One of his companions was the author Clifford Bax, who taught the composer the basic elements of astrology and how to make personalized horoscopes. Holst soon bought a copy of Alan Leo’s popular book What is the Horoscope and How is it Cast? and used it to do astrological readings for his friends and family. Holst loved to study ancient cultures and was fascinated by the idea that one’s personality could be determined by the influence of planetary alignment, writing to a friend: “…recently the character of each planet suggested lots to me, and I have been studying astrology fairly closely.” He set to work on the seven pieces that would become The Planets, using Alan Leo’s descriptive phrase “Bringer of…” as a programmatic subtitle for each movement. Despite the evocative subtitles, the composer did not want The Planets to be considered program music. In a program note from 1920, he explained: “These pieces were suggested by the astrological significance of the planets; there is no programme music in them, neither have they any connection with the deities of classical mythology bearing the same names. If any guide to the music is required, the subtitle to each piece will be found sufficient, especially if it be used in a broad sense.” The premiere of The Planets in 1918 was a revelation to the concert-going public. Holst was known primarily as a teacher at the all-female St. Paul School, where he wrote accessible music for the school orchestra. These lovely pieces, while celebrated today, were seen as didactic and dull in Holst’s own time, so the audience was utterly amazed by the maturity of the magical orchestrations, driving ostinato rhythms, and air of mysticism found in The Planets. This performance will highlight the first and fourth movements of Holst’s orchestral masterpiece. “Mars, the Bringer of War” features the brass and percussion with bold fanfares and a martial ostinato pattern that drives the movement through its irregular 5/4 meter, creating a slightly unhinged quality in the music. This unbalanced character is further intensified by the wandering chromatic theme in the low winds and strings. The fourth movement, “Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity,” is reminiscent of folk dances found at a rural English festival. The horns and low strings open with the jubilant melody over a frantic accompaniment in the violins. More instruments join the fray as the music rushes along with dizzying speed, but the movement regains its composure with the stately, hymn-like second theme. The joyful folk dance cannot be forgotten and starts anew, this time carrying us to the thrilling final measures.


VSO 2016-17 Season

CONCERT IV PROGRAM NOTES John Williams Born February 28, 1932, Long Island Star Wars In the course of his career, the celebrated composer John Williams has written some of the most memorable film scores in cinematic history. Star Wars, Jaws, Schindler's List, Indiana Jones, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial are only a few representatives of his prolific output. Williams has been the recipient of numerous awards for his film music, including the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, BAFTA Award, and the Grammy Award, each of which he has won multiple times. The film Star Wars was released in 1977 under the direction of George Lucas and has become one of the most recognizable films of all time, both visually and musically. Williams's score draws from the musical traditions of the lateRomantic era and the Golden Age of Hollywood, providing the listener with music that carries overwhelming emotional appeal. He makes prominent use of leitmotif, a technique associated with the operas of Richard Wagner, where important characters and concepts are represented by a distinct musical idea. Whether it be the romanticized, yearning melody of Princess Leia, the relentless angularity of the Imperial March, or the bold fanfares of the main title theme, these tunes have permeated the fabric of popular culture and are loved by listeners of all ages. - program notes by Heike Hoffer

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VSO 2016-17 Season





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Thursday, March 2, 2017 McAllen Performing Arts Center

Dvořák with Opera Valley Symphony Chorale, David Means, Conductor VERDI

Il Trovatore - Anvil Chorus Nabuco - Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves La Traviata - Gypsy Chorus


Madame Butterfly - Humming Chorus


Carmen - Habanera Esperanza Medina, mezzo soprano


Tannhauser - Pilgrim’s Chorus INTERMISSION


Symphony No. 8, in G Major, op. 88 Allegro con brio Adagio Allegretto grazioso Allegro, ma non troppo


Guest Artist Sponsor

Maestro Sponsor

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VSO 2016-17 Season


CONCERT V PROGRAM NOTES Giuseppe Verdi Born October 10, 1813, Le Roncole: Died January 27 1901, Milan Giacomo Puccini Born December 22, 1858, Lucca: Died November 29, 1924, Brussels Georges Bizet Born October 25, 1838, Paris: Died June 3, 1875, Bougival Richard Wagner Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig: February 13, 1883, Venice Opera Choruses of the 19th Century

When one thinks of the opera, one immediately imagines the glamorous life of the solo diva being showered with applause and flowers after pulling off yet another gorgeous aria. In reality, opera requires many people to produce a memorable performance, and one group that is often overlooked is the opera chorus. The chorus serves many important functions, both dramatically and musically, and plays a valuable role by imparting necessary information about the story and characters. The chorus can reflect on the events that have transpired, it can move the plot forward as part of the action, or it can provide a moment of respite after an emotionally charged scene. Sections featuring the chorus often come at the important structural points in an opera, positioning this music at the most dramatic points of the narrative. A soloist only gets to play one character in an opera, but the chorus takes on many different personas in the course of a performance, spanning a wide range of social classes, ethnicities, and professions. The chorus is also a vital contributor musically, providing a satisfying contrast to the solo arias. With many voices working together to create a bigger sound, the composer is free to use a larger orchestra and more colorful instrumental effects without having to worry about drowning out the singers. Today’s performance features six of the best choruses from the 19th century, the golden age of opera. Verdi’s Il trovatore is undeniably tragic, but there is a moment of levity in the second act featuring the men of the chorus in a bawdy song about hard work, delicious wine, and the sensual delights of a good woman. The men, playing Spanish merchants, sing as they


VSO 2016-17 Season

CONCERT V PROGRAM NOTES prepare their wares on anvils, pounding away in time to the music. In Verdi’s Nabucco, we hear a chorus of Hebrew slaves express their deep wish that their heart-rending prayers would “go on wings of gold” to the land of freedom. This chorus was a revelation at the opera’s premiere and was so greatly admired that it was sung by the 300,000 mourners who attended Verdi’s funeral procession. Our third chorus by Verdi is taken from La Traviata and features a playful troupe of Spanish gypsies who entertain the guests at a fashionable Parisian party by telling fortunes and regaling the crowd with tales of their romantic exploits in Madrid. The haunting “Humming Chorus” is from an exquisite moment in Puccini’s sorrowful Madama Butterfly, in which the chorus hums in octaves over simple pizzicato figures in the strings as the main character Butterfly sits calmly in an all-night vigil anticipating the arrival of her long-absent lover. Bizet’s Spanish chorus from Carmen is sexy and impassioned, with sinuous vocal lines that reflect the seductive movements of the main character. Finally, Wagner’s serene “Pilgrim`s Chorus” from the first act of Tannhäuser serves as a plea for mercy and peace through sacred absolution. The troubled knight Tannhäuser stops to rest in a beautiful valley and watches a group of pilgrims singing as they pass by, not knowing that he will soon become a pilgrim himself as penance for his immoral deeds. - program notes by Heike Hoffer

Antonín Dvořák Born September 8, 1841, Nelahozeves: Died May 1, 1904, Prague Symphony No. 8, in G Major, op. 88 Dvořák’s career as a composer appeared to be at a standstill by the early 1870s. His works were being performed in the best theaters in Prague, but he had not achieved any international recognition and could not find a way to break into the lucrative musical world of nearby Vienna. In the Czech lands, however, Dvořák finally enjoyed the respect he deserved by the time he got around to his Eighth Symphony. Compared to Dvořák’s somber Seventh Symphony, composed four years earlier, this G major Symphony is decidedly genial and upbeat; and yet, if we listen carefully, we may be surprised by how much minor-key music actually inhabits this major-key symphony, beginning with the solemn introduction, richly scored to spotlight mid-range instruments. But joyful premonitions intrude, thanks to the birdcall of the solo flute. This develops into the ebullient principal theme of the movement, which, when it has run its course, we are likely to recall as overwhelmingly pastoral and optimistic. And yet the mournful music of the introduction returns as the

VSO 2016-17 Season


CONCERT V PROGRAM NOTES movement progresses, and the development section is full of forbidding passages. This tempering of the bucolic spirit was deliberate. When Dvořák sketched the movement it was unerringly cheerful. The minor-key introduction arrived as an afterthought, as did the considerably more difficult trick of working reminiscences of it into the existing flow of the piece. In the end, this opening movement provides a splendid example of how the sun seems to shine more brightly after it has been darkened by passing shadows. Similar contrasts mark the Adagio, which even in its opening measures displays considerable ambiguity of mood: lusciously warm-hearted string sequences leading to intimations of a somber march (still in the strings). A third of the way through the movement this reflective disposition is interrupted by what sounds like a village band playing an arrangement from Wagner. The gentle music returns and seems to be ushering this movement to an end when the Wagnerian passion erupts yet again, now even more forcefully, after which this subtly scored movement wends to a peaceful conclusion. The folk-flavored third movement—a waltz, perhaps--is a bit melancholy, too, its wistfulness underscored by the minor mode. This serves as the traditional scherzo section, though its spirit is more in line with a Brahmsian intermezzo. The central trio section presents some of the most agreeably countrified material Dvořák ever wrote. Following an opening fanfare, the dance-like finale unrolls as a delightful set of variations (though interrupted by a minor-mode episode) on a theme of inherent breadth and dignity. In his 1984 biography Dvořák, Hans-Hubert Schönzeler offers some insights to the finale in his discussion of the Symphony No. 8, which he considers overall “the most intimate and original within the whole canon of Dvořák’s nine”: “[Dvořák] himself has said that he wanted to write a work different from the other symphonies, with individual force worked out in a new way, and in this he certainly succeeded, even though perhaps in the Finale his Bohemian temperament got the better of him. . . . The whole work breathes the spirit of Vysoká, and when one walks in those forests surrounding Dvořák’s country home on a sunny summer’s day, with the birds singing and the leaves of trees rustling in a gentle breeze, one can virtually hear the music. . . . [The] last movement just blossoms out, and I shall never forget [the Czech conductor] Rafael Kubelík in a rehearsal when it came to the opening trumpet fanfare, say to the orchestra: “Gentlemen, in Bohemia the trumpets never call to battle—they always call to the dance!” - program notes by James M. Keller


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Romeo and Juliet WAGNER

Rienzi Overture


The Glory and the Grandeur Philip Johnson, Mark Ramirez, Joe Moore - Percussionists INTERMISSION


Romeo and Juliet Suites Montagues and Capulets Friar Lawrence The Young Juliet Romeo and Juliet before parting Dance of the Antilles Girls Dance Romeo at Juliet’s Grave Death of Tybalt


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CONCERT VI PROGRAM NOTES Richard Wagner Born May 22, 1813, Leipzig: Died February 13, 1883, Venice Overture from Rienzi, WWV 49 The late 1830s proved to be a tumultuous time in Wagner’s career. He was heavily in debt and was being hounded by creditors, a problem that only got worse after the failure of his opera Das Liebesverbot. Wagner got a chance to make a new start when he became the conductor at the opera house in the city of Riga, moving there with his new bride Minna in 1837. He mostly programmed pieces in the tradition of French Grand Opera, a style that would show a direct influence on Rienzi in Wagner’s use of huge crowd scenes, grand sets, extreme length, and closed forms such as the ternary aria. By 1840, Wagner’s creditors had discovered his whereabouts and he fled to Paris, a major center of opera where the composer hoped he could make his fortune. He worked extensively on Rienzi and completed the first draft of the opera on September 20, putting the finishing touches on the overture three days later. Now all that remained was the lengthy process of orchestrating the work, but Wagner’s progress was violently disturbed when he was suddenly arrested and thrown in debtor’s prison. His incarceration may have been a blessing in disguise though, because he had ample time to complete the orchestrations without interruption while waiting for his wife to collect the necessary funds to bail him out. Wagner’s Rienzi was based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s English novel Rienzi: The Last of the Roman Tribunes from 1834. Though it is no longer popular today, the novel was well-liked in its own era and was translated into a number of different languages. The German edition was prepared by the prolific translator Georg Nikolaus Baermann, and it was this version that Wagner used as the basis for the opera. The composer dedicated the piece to Friedrich August II, King of Saxony in Dresden, as a way to secure his financial and political favor. At the time, the city of Dresden was in the process of building a magnificent new opera house, and Wagner hoped that earning the support of the King would result in him being appointed as the conductor of this prestigious establishment. His dreams were soon realized after the massive success of Rienzi in Dresden in 1842, and he was subsequently made Director of Music of Friedrich’s court in 1843. As Wagner’s career progressed, his compositional style became more uniquely individualistic and he began to see Rienzi as an embarrassment because it was written for financial success rather than for the sake of art. He revised the piece heavily in 1845 and the original manuscript is now lost, though there appears to be some evidence that the manuscript was presented to Adolph Hitler as a gift around 1939. Audiences today most often hear a version of the score edited jointly by Wagner’s widow Cosima and Bayreuth Festival conductor Julius Kneise in which they tried to eliminate elements of French Grand Opera from Rienzi to bring the piece in line with the composer’s mature artistic ideology.


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CONCERT VI PROGRAM NOTES Russell Peck Born January 25, 1945, Detroit: Died March 1, 2009, Greensboro The Glory and the Grandeur Since its premiere in 1988 this concerto has become one of my most popular orchestral works, no doubt in part because the three percussionists moving among their dozens of different instruments is quite fascinating visually. It was a brain-breaking effort to work out this choreography, but absolutely necessary to allow the percussionists to use all their uniquely varied sound resources. The stage setup was also planned to create a kind of geographical aspect to the piece, with percussion sound bouncing back-and-forth, spinning around in space, and in general coming from different locations. This spatial aspect is part of the composition's formal structure. The title is from a poem by Edgar Allen Poe: “. . . the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome.” I always loved that line and wanted in this case to evoke the glory associated with the bright clarity of percussion along with the grandeur associated with the power of its drums. As a concerto, this single-movement piece is extremely virtuosic, demanding athletic strength as well as subtlety and lightness of touch. It also involves an unusually critical rhythmic capacity of the three percussionists to dovetail intricate parts amidst a complexity of orchestral color. - program note by the composer

Sergei Prokofiev Born April 23, 1891, Sontsovka: Died March 5, 1953, Moscow Selections from Romeo and Juliet Suites Prokofiev was one of many famous composers inspired by Shakespeare’s tragic romance Romeo and Juliet. Tchaikovsky, Gounod, and Berlioz each made a musical setting of the tale, as did Leonard Bernstein in his jazz-inspired West Side Story. Initially, Prokofiev’s version seemed to be as ill-fated as the unhappy lovers in the play. The piece was commissioned by Leningrad’s Kirov Ballet in 1935, but the company suddenly dropped it with the excuse that the music was too complicated. Not long after, Prokofiev signed a contract with a rival ballet company, the Bolshoi Ballet of Moscow, who apparently demanded a happy ending for the story, much to the composer’s dismay. As he wrote in his autobiography: “There was quite a fuss at the time about

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CONCERT VI PROGRAM NOTES our attempts to give Romeo and Juliet a happy ending – in the last act Romeo arrives a minute earlier, finds Juliet alive and everything ends well. The reasons for this bit of barbarism were purely choreographic: living people can dance, the dying cannot… After several conferences with the choreographers, it was found that the tragic ending could be expressed in the dance and in due time the music for that ending was written.” Eventually, Bolshoi also dropped the ballet, claiming that the music was impossible for dancing. Romeo and Juliet languished after its second rejection and Prokofiev feared the piece would never be performed, prompting him to spend part of 1936 and 1937 fashioning multiple orchestral suites and piano arrangements from the ballet to give the work a second chance at life in the concert hall. Then, in 1938, Prokofiev received a surprising request from a ballet company in Brno, Czechoslovakia, asking for permission to give a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Undaunted by the supposedly insurmountable musical problems that had plagued the Kirov and Bolshoi dancers, the dancers in Brno prepared the ballet diligently and the premiere was a huge success. The gauntlet had been dropped, and the major Russian ballet companies could not make any more excuses about the piece being “undanceable” now that Brno had been successful. Prokofiev’s orchestral suites from Romeo and Juliet are too long to perform in their entirety, so today’s conductors follow the composer’s model of selecting excerpts from the suites and combining them in a pleasant musical sequence. Some excerpts are played with great consistency, but conductors also include their own favorites, making every performance a little different. Today’s concert will include seven selections. The stomping, angry dissonances of ‘Montagues and Capulets’ show the bravado of the feuding families. Their aggressions fall to the background as a graceful flute solo accompanies Juliet’s first dance with her suitor Paris, but their hostilities cannot be quelled for long. A hymn-like melody in the bassoon is the hallmark of the tenderhearted ‘Friar Laurence’, whose actions set the tragic events of the tale in motion, and ‘The Young Juliet’ is a musical portrait of the playful naïveté of the heroine. The tender longing of ‘Romeo and Juliet Before Parting’ is contrasted by the jaunty folk tune that makes up the vibrant ‘Dance’, and the profound depth of Romeo’s sorrow is clearly evident in ‘Romeo at the Tomb of Juliet’. The final selection, ‘The Death of Tybalt’, depicts the dramatic moment where Romeo kills his rival Tybalt in retaliation for the death of Romeo’s friend Mecrutio. The young Montague and Capulet men engage in their typical taunts with fiery, swirling music, but their provocations take an unexpected turn as the sword fight becomes deadly. The scene ends as the dead are carried out to a searing theme of intense sadness and anger. - program notes by Heike Hoffer

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Cultural Leader Honorees Dr. and Mrs. William Gillum Long-time Patrons of Local Art When it comes to mixing work and pleasure it’s all about balance, according to Dr. William Gillum, part-time clarinetist and one of this year’s Cultural Leader honorees at the Valley Symphony Orchestra’s 65th Anniversary Gala on Thursday, March 9, 2017 at the McAllen Convention Center Ballroom. Dr. Gillum and his wife, Evelyn, have been patrons to local art for years. “I started playing gradually with the Valley Symphony Orchestra by substituting when they needed an extra player,” William stated. “It always suited me because playing in a symphony takes a lot of time; you have to practice often to learn the music. The music is very different – you can’t just learn it in one session.” William worked for years as an ophthalmologist for Thurmond Eye Associates Mid Valley Eye Clinic. Recently retired, he said he has much more time to practice these days. “I had other hobbies too. I played tennis and we raised four kids,” he said. “Although a symphony only need two clarinet players, we were still required to attend all rehearsals just in case.” As a child, William recalls his mother’s passion for music as the driving force behind his interest. “My mother made me practice a lot,” he said. “I started playing the clarinet in the fourth grade. Even my clarinet teacher would complement my mother on her piano skills.” William continued to play the instrument all through his college years and during his ophthalmology career. He joined the McAllen Symphonic Band in 1982 as a soloist and joined the Valley Symphony Orchestra in 2005 as a substitute clarinetist. Upon learning of his nomination, William commented that there are so many talented musicians in the symphony. “Everyone in the symphony is talented and doing what they love to do,” he mentioned. “I was very surprised and flattered when I got the news that we had been nominated. My wife is a loyal attendee to the symphony and has helped with various aspects over the years. She’s always been so supportive of me.” When asked about some of his favorite composers, William mentioned the classics such as Bach and Mozart, but said classical music in general is good for the soul. “The symphony brings a crucial cultural influence and I think that the symphony music is a very high art form that goes beyond entertainment – it becomes inspirational,” he said. “For me, it’s a personal experience. I can go listen to a symphony and listen to how beautiful it is, and just hearing something so beautiful makes me want to be a good person and do good things.” - By Amanda Taylor


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2016-2017 Program B  

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