The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 28, 2013

Johnstown Symphony Orchestra planning a ‘Grand Finale’

Both old and new compositions will be performed at this season-ending concert.

Johnstown Symphony Orchestra will present “Grand Finale” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Richland Township.

The orchestra will be joined by the Johnstown Symphony Chorus, directed by Sam Coco; Greater Johns-town Community Chorus, co-directed by Mari Grace Lingenfelter and Christopher McAllister; composer, Erik Santos; and four guest soloists.

Musical selections will be Beethoven’s final work, “Symphony No. 9 in D minor Choral” performed with the soloists and choruses, and “… in the Mines of Desire” by Santos, performed with the choruses only.

“This is the crowning of our season,” said Maestro Istvan Jaray, symphony conductor.

“The Beethoven piece is one of the greatest compositions in the symphonic repertoire. It will be a magnificent piece for the audience to hear.”

The newer composition by Erik Santos, brother of Nathan Santos, former principal bass for the symphony, was written as a favor to a friend, Matthew Savery, music director of the Bozeman and Butte symphony orchestras of Montana.

The composition tells the tale of Butte, known as the copper mining capital of the world until the big mining operations pulled out, a tale similar to Johnstown’s history with the steel industry.

Since Santos had never been to the place he was to write about, his friend flew him out from Michigan for a week and took him to visit historic places so he could get the flavor of the  place.

“Matt asked me to compose this for the anniversary of the Butte Symphony, one of the older symphonies in the state,” Santos said.

“Butte was a big-money town with a history of personality. It epitomized the feeling of the West. There was a big crater of toxic waste left at the mining site.”

The people of Butte didn’t want a postcard historical piece, but wanted Santos to go deeper.

“I think what I wrote has a poetic resonance with the place,” Santos said.

“A guy who grew up in Butte came up to me after it was played and said part of it sounds like the trolley he heard every day.”

Santos went through the story he told in his composition, starting with a sense of a potential of life, followed by a coming of age when the mines exploded with business.

Then the mines closed with a sense of destruction, ending with a questioning, where are we now?

Santos wrote all the music and words for the piece, except for a quotation at the end, and it has been performed only by the Butte Symphony.

“We’re delighted this is the Pennsylvania premiere,” Jaray said.

“We’re happy it’s being done in Johnstown with the connection to his brother. We’re looking forward to doing it. The audience will have a great evening.”

The composition by Santos will be playing during the first half of the concert, and the longer Beethoven symphony will be played in the second.

“This Beethoven piece is a very, very long symphony, almost 50 minutes,” Jaray said.

“It’s usually paired with something shorter.”

Santos will be present at Saturday’s concert to speak to the audience before his composition is played.

“It’s always a joy to have a composer who is living,” Jaray said. “I can pick up the phone to ask him about his composition. It’s been a pleasure to talk to him.”

Santos is an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater and Dance, where he teaches composition and is the director of the electronic music studios.

A multi-instrumentalist, singer and composer, he makes music in multiple genres, including classical, rock, soul, country, jazz and electronic, for performance venues such as concert halls, theaters, dances, churches, clubs and street corners.

Santos has had large-scale orchestral commissions from the Bozeman and Butte symphony orchestras and a number of commissions for chamber works.

The four guest soloists are soprano Anna Singer, mezzo-soprano Xiu-ru Liu, tenor Matthew Vickers and bass Joseph Baunoch.

Singer made her debut at Carnegie Hall with the Manhattan Philharmonic and has appeared as soprano soloist in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony throughout Europe.

Liu, an international mezzo-soprano, has appeared with European and American opera companies and is a soloist for orchestras and oratorio societies throughout the world.

Tenor Vickers was chosen to be the tenor soloist cover for Penn State’s production of Verdi’s Requiem and was a winner in the 2012 Penn State Concerto Competition.

Baunoch, who will sing bass, trained with Toledo Opera and Dicapo Opera of New York City and has performed in more than 50 different operas and  30 opera roles at the professional and collegiate level.

Concert

What: Johnstown Symphony Orchestra’s “Grand Finale.”

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center, Richland Township.

Tickets: $35, $30, $25 and $10.

Information: 269-7200 or www.johnstownsymphony.org.

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