The University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra is set to open the 2019-20 season, “A Musical Mystery Tour,” next week.
The opening night concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall. Tickets are $12 for the general public, $8 for seniors and $6 for students.
The orchestra is under the direction of Michael Griffith, who is in his 31st year as the music director.
The concert is set to open with Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 2, also called the “Little Russian Symphony.” The composer was fairly young when he wrote it, according to Griffith, and the sound is joyful, exciting and full of fun folk melodies.
The orchestra will also be playing composer Gwyneth Walker’s “Open the Door,” an overture commissioned in 1990 by the Women’s Philharmonic, a San Francisco-based professional orchestra that specialized in music by female composers.
Griffith said the piece was written as a reflection on expanding opportunities for female composers, but it’s also a fitting tribute to the work of women to secure the vote in Wyoming 150 years ago.
“It occurred to me that that theme really could be expanded nicely into the overall statewide celebration of women’s suffrage here in Wyoming,” he said. “Not just opening the door to women composers, but opening the door to all women in their effort to get the right to vote.”
He described the piece as contemporary, bright and exuberant.
“It starts quite hesitantly, almost tentatively, and gradually grows in energy and confidence and ends quite triumphantly,” he said.
The UW Symphony Orchestra premiered a piece by Walker last fall called “Earth and Sky.”
John Fadial, a professor of violin at UW, will be the soloist for Dvorak’s Violin Concerto. Fadial has performed around the world in chamber groups and as a soloist, including before President Gerald Ford as an 11-year-old.
Griffith said the presence of a solo musician playing at a higher level than even members of the symphony orchestra is inspiring for the group.
“I think they strive very hard to live up to their responsibilities in playing the accompaniment for a great concerto played by a great artist,” he said.
The 80-member orchestra welcomes new musicians in clarinet, trumpet, percussion and all the string sections this year, including eight new violinists. Undergraduate and graduate student members come from around the country as well as Columbia, Vietnam, Brazil, China, Iceland and Japan.
Griffith said the Department of Music recruits musicians to join the orchestra, while members are also attracted by the program’s reputation.
“Because the music program is strong, then some potential students may seek us out,” he said. “That’s how we get students from all over the world.”
A pre-concert reception is scheduled for 6:45 p.m., with light refreshments and music by the UW graduate string quartet.
Griffith said audience members would enjoy their first taste of this year’s orchestra.
“I think they’ll be very, very pleased with what they hear,” he said.
The 2019-20 season is scheduled to continue with concerts on Dec. 5, Dec. 14-15, March 26 and May 7.