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‘Rule Britannia' opens I.V. Symphony Orchestra's 27th mid-winter concert

February 16, 2001|By DENNIS POND, Special to this newspaper

The Imperial Valley Symphony Orchestra played its 27th mid-winter concert Thursday evening in the Southwest Performing Arts Theatre in El Centro.

Programming "Music Most English," music director Joel Jacklich enlisted the assistance of the Imperial Valley College Chamber Singers to present music from the early 18th century, the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The orchestra and chamber singers opened the concert with an arrangement of "Rule Britannia" composed by Thomas Augustine Arne. Soloist Anthony Longoria presented a splendid rendition.

The concluding selection of the concert was Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1." A poem by A.C. Benson, "Land of Hope and Glory," was sung to the theme during World War I and has continued to be one of the most patriotic of English songs. The Imperial Valley College Chamber Singers, directed by Linda Brown, added gracefully to the performance.

Between the first and last selections, the orchestra played George Frederick Handel's "Water Music Suite," arranged by Sir Hamilton Hardy. Composed for a royal party on barges floating down the River Thames when the elector of Hanover became King George I of England, Handel was forgiven for neglecting to return to Germany from what turned out to be an extended visit to London. George was so taken with Handel's music he kept him on the royal payroll in England. "Rule Britannia," the "Water Music Suite" represented the baroque era of English music.


The late-romantic era of English music was represented by the "Overture to Pirates of Penzance," composed by Sir Arthur Sullivan. The highly successful collaboration of Sir John Gilbert, librettist, and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan produced 13 operettas in the light-hearted style of Jacques Offenbach. Often a spoof or parody of English high society, these operettas were phenomenally successful in England and enjoyed wide acceptance around the world.

Two unusual selections for orchestra came in the forms of "English Folksong Suite," by Ralph Vaughn Williams and "First Suite in E-Flat for Military Band," by Gustav Holst. Vaughn Williams and Holst wrote these compositions for military bands, of which Britain has some of the best. When teased by a local smart-aleck high school band director about these choices being included in an orchestra concert, maestro Jacklich retorted, "Orchestras play only the very best transcriptions!"

Segments of the concert sounded wonderful. The French horn section excelled in the "Chaconne" movement of the Holst "Suite." The woodwind and brass sections played their best in the same selections. In several instances, pitch was a problem, which managed to be corrected.

The percussion section provided a unifying element in the places it was needed. It should be a source of local pride to see so many young musicians in the string section again this season.

The low brass section was completed by high school and junior college students in numbers not seen for several years.

The Southwest theater is a beautiful facility, but it has acoustic handicaps both on the stage and in various portions of the audience. Orchestra members seated to the rear of the stage could not hear the chorus, and while the chorus was amplified, in various places in the hall it distorted the balance of the vocal ensemble.

In the 27th year of the orchestra's existence, it would be interesting to know how many formerly young local musicians have moved through this orchestra into middle age. Over $31,000 has been awarded in various forms of scholarships over the years. Many youngsters have reaped the rewards of musical experiences made possible because a few local musicians got tired of traveling out of the Imperial Valley to perform, and members of the Valley community realized the value of having a local group they decided to support financially.

The symphony's season will close April 5 with the annual Young Artist Concert, featuring pianist Christopher Yeong. A student of Ethel Lange, he will play Haydn's "Piano Concerto In D." The concert will include light classics for the whole family at 7:30 p.m. in the Southwest theater.

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