Digital Program: Umoja
February 26th, 2022
Grant Harville, Conductor & Artistic Director Candidate
Pre-concert Discussion 6:30 pm & Concert 7:30 pm
Ritsche Auditorium, St. Cloud State University
- The Impresario Overture, K. 486 (1786) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
- Violin Concerto no. 3 in G minor (1775) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
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- Umoja (Anthem of Unity) (2002) by Valerie Coleman (b. 1970)
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- “Anvil Chorus” from Il trovatore (1853) by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
- “Va pensiero” from Nabucco (1841) by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
- Polovtsian Dances (1887, 1890) by Alexander Borodin (1833-1887)
Read Program Notes >
This activity is made possible, in part, by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Central Minnesota Arts Board, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Grant Harville, Conductor + Artistic Director Candidate
Dr. Marion Judish, Violin Soloist
Dr. Mary Kay Geston, Artistic Managing Director, Great River Chorale
Great River Chorale
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Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3 and Overture to The Impresario found him at very different stages in his career. Already famous throughout Europe from his touring child prodigy years, Mozart had multiple operas and symphonies under his belt by the time he composed his Violin Concerto No. 3 in 1775 at age 19. This stage of Mozart’s life is one of the few for which we have little day-to-day biographical information, and for good reason: much of our knowledge of Mozart’s life comes from letter exchanged between him and his father, and during this time, the two were working at court in Salzburg together – they would have been perfectly able to have their conversations over dinner, not via post.
As a result, the precise motives for the composition remain unknown. Most composers at the time wrote concertos for themselves: Mozart could certainly get around on the instrument, but he preferred piano (and viola), and it seems unlikely that his five violin concertos (all written around this time) were intended as showpieces for himself. Whatever its function, the Third Concerto exemplifies Mozart’s writing in the genre in many ways, its three movements comprising a spirited allegro, a songful middle movement, and a dancing finale. There also appear to be some efforts at populism: Mozart paraphrases his own opera Il re pastore (written at the same time to celebrate the arrival of a visiting dignitary) in the first movement, and the finale features a distinctive digression into a folk-y dance whose melody apparently originated in Strassbourg, from whence comes the work’s nickname of “Strassbourg Concerto.”
By contrast, the circumstances which brought Mozart’s operetta The Impresario could not be more clear – or more fascinating. By the time of the work’s premiere in 1786, Mozart was well established in Vienna, bringing in income as a free-lance musician and maintaining a steady position as the imperial chamber music composer. Contrary to what has entered the popular imagination (at least in part from the film Amadeus), Mozart was by no means penniless or underappreciated, despite some financial ups and downs. And the hard evidence that the now-infamous court composer Antonio Salieri was working behind the scenes to sabotage Mozart’s career is lacking: if Salieri was indeed trying to destroy Mozart’s prospects in Vienna, he did a terrible job of it.
The occasion of the premiere of The Impresario was in fact the event that, superficially anyway, pitted Mozart and Salieri against each other more than any other. In February 1786, Emperor Joseph II – again, the employer of both composers – held a banquet/theatrical spectacle to celebrate the state visit of his sister and her husband. The evening’s entertainment was a pair of short theater pieces, each spoofing opera culture and conventions, one by Mozart and the other by Salieri. (The audience watched the first and then moved to the other side of the room to watch the second.) Both works are thoroughly silly, featuring fighting sopranos and inept librettists. Appropriately, Mozart’s overture to The Impresario is light, quick, short, and good-natured fun from beginning to end.
In its original form, Umoja, the Swahili word for Unity and the first principle of the African Diaspora holiday Kwanzaa, was composed as simple song for women’s choir. It embodied a sense of ‘tribal unity’, through the feel of a drum circle, the sharing of history through traditional “call and response” form and the repetition of a memorable sing-song melody. It was rearranged into woodwind quintet form during the genesis of Coleman’s chamber music ensemble, Imani Winds, with the intent of providing an anthem that celebrated the diverse heritages of the ensemble itself.
Almost two decades later from the original, the orchestral version brings an expansion and sophistication to the short and sweet melody, beginning with sustained ethereal passages that float and shift from a bowed vibraphone, supporting the introduction of the melody by solo violin. Here the melody is sweetly singing in its simplest form with an earnest reminiscent of Appalachian style music. From there, the melody dances and weaves throughout the instrument families, interrupted by dissonant viewpoints led by the brass and percussion sections, which represent the clash of injustices, racism, and hate that threatens to gain a foothold in the world today. Spiky textures turn into an aggressive exchange between upper woodwinds and percussion, before a return to the melody as a gentle reminder of kindness and humanity. Through the brass-led ensemble tutti, the journey ends with a bold call of unity that harkens back to the original anthem. Umoja has seen the creation of many versions, that are like siblings to one another, similar in many ways, but each with a unique voice that is informed by Coleman’s ever evolving creativity and perspective.
“This version honors the simple melody that ever was, but is now a full exploration into the meaning of freedom and unity. Now more than ever, Umoja has to ring as a strong and beautiful anthem for the world we live in today.”
Notes by Valerie Coleman
Verdi and Borodin
The 19th-century opera world, particularly in France and Italy, had more in common with the contemporary film world than with the opera scene as we know it today. Operas were produced for mass entertainment and churned out with regularity, with audiences eagerly anticipating new productions. (This high-volume legacy can still be seen in Europe: while a respectable American company might put on three main productions a year, even a modest company on the Continent might average one a week.) Successful composers became rich and famous – hit machine Gioachino Rossini retired a wealthy man at age 37 – and, in some cases, leveraged that fame into political activity, a la Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Giuseppe Verdi’s period of highest productivity – some 20 operas between 1839 and 1859 – coincided with the escalation of the Italian unification movement, and he was twice selected to serve in nascent Italian parliamentary bodies. While his actual on-the-ground government service was limited, his nationalistic leanings were well-documented, and it was a natural inclination for listeners to look for revolutionary messages in his operas. Particularly susceptible to such treatment was the chorus “Va pensiero” from Verdi’s first big success, Nabucco. And no wonder: it wasn’t difficult to hear desire for an Italian nation in the Hebrew slaves’ lament for the homeland from which they’d been displaced.
By contrast, Verdi’s so-called Anvil Chorus (“Vedi, le fosche”) from Il trovatore (The Troubadour) resists such political interpretations. A vigorous tribute to hedonism, the Anvil Chorus features a group of Spanish gypsies at work at their anvils (audible in the percussion section), extolling the joys of women and wine.
While Italians could claim opera as a birthright, having invented the artform around 1600, Russians only began writing operas in significant numbers in the mid-1800s. Which is not to say that Russian composers weren’t equally nationalistically motivated: the nature of “Russianness” in music was high in the minds of composers of the era, including Alexander Borodin. The illegitimate son of a wealthy aristocrat, Borodin enjoyed the comforts and education of privilege. But such a station meant that a musical career would not have been sufficiently respectable, so despite his strong musical inclinations, he turned instead to the medical research field, teaching at the St. Petersburg Academy of Medicine and composing in his spare time.
A member of a group of nationalist composers known as the “Russian Five,” Borodin scoured both Russian legend and history for his opera Prince Igor, based on the military exploits of a 12th-century prince. The work remained unfinished at his death, but the Polovtsian Dances from Act 2 have become a beloved staple of the orchestral repertoire. Like Verdi’s “Va, pensiero,” the Polovtsian Dances features a chorus of slaves, taken in war by the Khan Konchak, Prince Igor’s nemesis. In between bouts of forced dancing for the Khan’s pleasure, the chorus lifts a song in memory of their now-distant homeland.
Grant Harville, Conductor + Artistic Director Candidate
Winner of the London Conducting Masterclass Competition and the Agatha C. Church Conducting Award, Grant Harville is Music Director and Conductor for the Great Falls Symphony Association. He previously held director positions with the Idaho State-Civic Symphony (where he earned a 20 Under 40 award from the Southeast Idaho Business Journal), Bozeman Symphony, and Ripon College; was Assistant Director with the Georgia Symphony; and conducted productions at Fraser Lyric Opera and the Madison Savoyards. His guest conducting appearances include the Southwest Michigan Symphony, Bozeman Symphony, Boise Philharmonic, Georgia Symphony, Oistrach Symphony, and Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City.
Harville has collaborated with numerous artists of international stature, including Bela Fleck, Martina Filjak, Orion Weiss, Dominic Cheli, Chee-Yun, William Hagen, Stephanie Chase, Inbal Segev, Jiji, Patrick Sheridan, as well as the groups Pink Martini, Time for Three, and the Hubbard Street Dance Company. He conducted the first full-length orchestral program in the United States with French-Canadian folk group Le Vent du Nord, and orchestrated and premiered a symphonic collaboration with Native American hip-hop artist Supaman.
A devoted educator, Harville has been Music Director of the Boise Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra and has given clinics for dozens of school orchestras, honors orchestras, youth orchestras, orchestra festivals, and summer programs, including founding and conducting the annual East Idaho Honors Orchestra. He has taught music appreciation courses for adults in continuing education programs in Montana, Idaho, and Georgia and served as Choir Director for the Atlanta Music Project, an El Sistema-based music education program dedicated to underserved youth in urban Atlanta.
Harville’s diverse musical background includes experience as a tubist, vocalist, violist, and composer. He has a number of tuba competition victories to his credit, including First Prize in the Leonard Falcone International Solo Tuba competition and winner of the University of Michigan Concerto Competition, performing a concerto of his own composition. As tenor with the Atlanta Symphony Chorus, he was selected to perform as soloist with the orchestra at Carnegie Hall. His compositions have been performed by numerous ensembles and soloists throughout the US: his Sonata for tuba and piano was a finalist for the Harvey G. Phillips Award for Excellence in
Composition, and he was awarded a grant to perform his Steampunk Partita at the National Association of Music Educators Northwest Division Conference.
Harville pursued his music studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Michigan. His principal teachers and mentors include James Smith, Michael Alexander, Markand Thakar, Victor Yampolsky, Kenneth Kiesler, Michael Haithcock, David Becker, John Stevens, and Fritz Kaenzig.
Dr. Marion Judish, Violin Soloist
Marion Judish, Professor Emeritus of violin and viola, joined the St. Cloud State University Department of music in the fall of 1988. She received a Bachelor of Music Degree in Violin Performance at the University of Colorado Music School in Boulder, Colorado. She earned her Masters of Music and Doctoral of Music Degrees at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music in Minneapolis. Her post-graduate work at the Juilliard School of Music in New York specialized in Chamber Music.
Marion is concertmaster of the St. Cloud Symphony as well as the Wayzata Symphony. She also serves as concertmaster for the Amadeus Chamber Symphony. She has been the featured soloist with these groups as well as with the Colorado Symphony,Grand Forks Symphony, Heartland Symphony, North Minneapolis Symphony, St. Cloud State University Orchestra, among others. She has also performed extensively in Chicago, New York, Colorado, and Sweden. She toured in the U.K., Germany, France and Switzerland with the St. Cloud State University Orchestra featuring the Oratorio “To Be Certain of the Dawn” by Stephen Paulus.
Before coming to Minnesota, Marion was an active studio musician for several recording companies throughout the Metro-Denver area. She was concertmaster of the Antonio Brico Symphony in Denver. (This is the first professional orchestra in the United States to have a woman conductor.) She founded the Boulder String Quartet, the St. Cloud String Quartet, the Tresca String Quartet and most recently, the Rosamunde String Quartet.
As an avid supporter of new music, she has performed for the Composer’s Forum in Minneapolis on several occasions. She presented the premiere performance of the “Ghost Opera” for Pipa (Chinese Harp) and string chamber orchestra. She also performed “Dead Elvis” with the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, “Three Mysteries” for Violin and Percussion by Daniel Dorff, “Journey” by Melissa Krause, “Lex” for violin and percussion by Michael Daugherty, “Hi Mozart” by Hartmust Hochmair, and “Chimera II” by Dr. Scott Miller. She has commissioned several pieces for the SCSU orchestra as well as solo repertoire from upcoming composer, Stephen Barthel. In 2017, Judish is featured in the SEAMUS 27 CD for Russell Pinkston’s composition “Vox Clamantis”. This piece was one of the featured eight winners from over 200 applicants.
Judish holds the record of receiving three consecutive W. Fiske Scholarship awards at the University of Colorado during her undergraduate studies. This was the most prestigious award to be given.
Dr. Mary Kay Geston, Artistic Director of Great River Chorale
Mary Kay Geston has been Great River Chorale’s artistic managing director since 2010. Dr. Geston has taught at UW-River Falls, UM-Twin Cities, UM-Morris, University of Northwestern-St. Paul, University of Colorado-Boulder, Northern State University, Concordia University-St. Paul, and St. Olaf College. Choirs under her direction have performed at state and regional professional conferences and with the Minnesota Orchestra. She has conducted all-state and honor choirs in CO, KY, MN, NE, ND, SD and WI, has been a clinician in Taiwan and South Korea, and has presented sessions at state, regional and national conferences of ACDA, American Guild of Organists, National Association for Music Education, and National Association of Teachers of Singing. Dr. Geston has held many professional leadership roles including president of ACDA North Central Region, president of ACDA-MN, and chair of the F. Melius Christiansen Endowment Fund Committee. She received ACDA-MN’s 2012 Choral Director of the Year award.
Great River Chorale
Great River Chorale, a 50-voice adult community choir based in St. Cloud, Minnesota, was founded in 2001, and has been the St. Cloud Symphony Orchestra’s principal choral partner since 2013. The choir has distinguished itself by a commitment to artistic excellence, through collaborations with local and regional artists such as the Cantabile Girls’ Choirs, The St. John’s Boys’ Choir, Minnesota Dance Ensemble, and the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, and has commissioned new music from Minnesota composers including René Clausen, Timothy Takach, David Dickau and Laura Caviani. Great River Chorale has been selected four times (in 2019, ‘17, ‘15 and ‘13) for inclusion on Classical Minnesota Public Radio’s “Taste of the Holidays” CD featuring “Minnesota’s best regional ensembles.” Great River Chorale was the only choir outside the Twin Cities metro area to perform virtually in Chorus America’s 2021 National Conference, and in 2015 was one of ten Minnesota choirs to headline the Northern Voice Festival in the Twin Cities. For more information please visit www.greatriverchorale.org.
Orchestra Roster: Umoja
February 26, 2022
Marion Judish*** (adopted by Rachel Mertz)
Laura Dahl (adopted by Gary Osberg)
Paula Ulicsni Halvorson
(Adopted by Dominic and Charlie Gwost)
Coca Bochonko** (adopted by Ross & Jen Detert)
James Johnson (Adopted by Art and Barb Grachek)
(Adopted by Mary Calantoc & Kevin Hanks)
William Skudlarek (adopted by Margaret Vos)
Peggy Doerrie** (Adopted by Emily Schrader and Mary Vos)
Brendon Bushman** (adopted by Allen & Laura Horn)
Jill Pattock** (Adopted by Lauren Schrader and Mary Vos)
Emily Borra (adopted by Rachel & Grace Mertz)
Mark Springer** (Adopted by Ross and Jen Detert)
Terry Vermillion** (Adopted by David Swenson Foundation and Lester Engel)
Great River Chorale, Roster
Nina Lasceski, OSB
Dené DrydenDeborah Ferrell
Nina Lasceski, OSB
Chris Ann Johnson
Aelred Senna, OSB
ARTISTIC MANAGING DIRECTOR
Mary Kay Geston
We recognize people and organizations dedicated to supporting a vibrant arts culture in Central Minnesota with great appreciation. We salute our donors for their selfless investment in our programs, especially during these challenging pandemic times. We gratefully acknowledge contributions from the following donors between February 24, 2020, and November 3, 2021.
COMPOSER | $10,000+
Central Minnesota Arts Board
Minnesota State Arts Board
St. Cloud State University
PRODUCER | $5,000-$9,999
Central Minnesota Community Foundation
CONDUCTOR | $2,500-$4,999
Daniel and Mary Torgersen
Ross and Jen Detert
SOLOIST | $1,000-$2,499
Don Helgeson & Sue Shepard
Michael & Karel Helgeson
Dr. Kenneth and Linda Holmen
Tom and Ann Stone
Merle H. Sykora
Mary Vos, Lauren Schrader, Emily Schrader
BENEFACTOR | $500-$999
Alan and Marilyn Anderson
Matthew and Michelle Clemen
David and Sharon Detert
Dennis and Susan Douma
Jim and Ellen Ellickson
Art and Barbara Grachek
James, Charlie, & Dominick Gwost
Mary Calantoc and Kevin Hanks
Allen & Laura Horn
The David Swenson Foundation
Margaret Skudlarek Vos
MUSICIAN | $100-$499
Joel and Judith Ampe
Barbara & King Banaian
Micah and Jeanine Barrett
Gene and Mary Margaret Bjorklun
Eileen Chambers and Leanna Williams
Robert Domek (in memory of Jane Domek)
Melvin and Bonnie Dowdy
Effective Living Center
Charles and Patricia Ernst
Charles and Lois Head
Allen and Laura Horn
Mark and Mary Hughes
Scott W. Johnson
Jennifer Kalpin and Joshua Richardson
Robert and Vicky Kapitzke
Mary Ann Leitch
Jerry and Mary Lou Lenz
John and Sharon Litzau
Diane Sinell and Thomas Minor
Vicki and Lee Morgan
John and Jane Oxton
Marvin and Ione Pearson
Vera Peterson and Bruce Regan
Sherwood and Carol Reid
Daneil & Mary Rethmeier
Frank & Rosemary Roehl
St. Cloud Area Sertoma
Coca Bochonko & Mark Springer
Janet & Thomas Savros
Linda G. Tenneson
Marilyn & Jane Thielman
Joel Spoonheim & Lani Willis
Debra Carlson & Ric Wittwer
WANT TO JOIN THIS LIST?
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SCSO, PO Box 234, St. Cloud, MN 56302.
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