Perkins said. I think its absolutely one of Dvorakmasterpieces

Waukegan Symphony Orchestra salutes dance music in concert

Director Search Finalist Reed Perkins will conduct the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra for its Dance! concert March 17 at Waukegan High Schools Trapp Auditorium.

Director Search Finalist Reed Perkins will conduct the Waukegan Symphony Orchestra for its Dance! concert March 17 at Waukegan High Schools Trapp Auditorium. (Reed Perkins)

Director Finalist Reed Perkins will lead the Waukegan Sympphony Orchestras third subscription concert of the season titled Dance! at 4 p.m. March 17 at Waukegan High Schools Trapp Auditorium.

Each of the orchestras four subscription concerts this season is conducted by a different finalist auditioning for the role.

Our upcoming concert highlights the irresistible influence of dance and dancing on the world of symphonic music by featuring lively, dance-inspired music of composers from Russia, Poland, Mexico and Czechia in music written for the opera house, concert hall and radio broadcast, said Perkins, who is a freelance conductor based in southeast Wisconsin. The repertoire we are playing is such fantastic, interesting and fresh music.

The first half of the program features three shorter works, beginning with the Polonaise from Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovskys opera Eugene Onegin, which premiered in 1879, followed by Polish composer Witold Lutoslawskis Little Suite for symphony orchestra, completed in 1951.

The suite is in four short movements, each based on folk melodies and dance tunes from southeast Poland, Perkins said. Its a charming and lively piece filled with fresh instrumental colors and unexpected harmonies.

Next is Mexican composer Jose Pablo Moncayos Huapango from 1941.

(It) is perhaps the most famous and beloved piece in the Mexican symphonic repertoire, Perkins said.

The diverse program concludes with Czech composer Antonin Dvoraks Symphony No. 6 in D major, written in 1880.

Although it was Dvoraks sixth full-length symphony, it was the first that he felt was worth publishing, Perkins said. I think its absolutely one of Dvoraks masterpieces, but for some mysterious reason it is rarely played. Its filled with all of Dvoraks best and most characteristic melodies, harmonies and orchestration.

And the work fits right in with the concerts dance theme, and not just in the general sense that as in other Dvorak works many of the melodies have a dance-like character.

More particularly, the third movement, the scherzo, is not just a fast-slow-fast scherzo but a furiant, Perkins explained. The furiant is a fiery traditional Czech dance, and this furiant is one of the highlights of Dvoraks symphony, wild and energetic and filled with unexpected syncopations and dynamic changes. Overall, the concert offers an interesting variety of pieces from the last two centuries.

All of these composers were brilliant orchestra composers, and each was inspired by dance and music for dancing, Perkins said. Its fun to hear how each composer expresses movement through sound, each in his own, individual style.

Of course, for a conductor, its always challenging to create a program for an orchestra that you havent worked with before.

I wanted to make a varied program that balanced old favorites, like Dvorak and Tchaikovsky, with music that the orchestra and audience may not have heard but will enjoy, such as the Moncayo and Lutoslawski, Perkins said. I considered many options, and this was my favorite.

He described it as a big, substantial program.

There are no easy pieces here, and the orchestra and I are working hard together to make a fine performance, Perkins said. They have a great work ethic, and I am enjoying the rehearsal process with them. I think our audiences will enjoy the results.

Each piece is different and each offers many levels of satisfaction and stimulation for expert and casual listeners, Perkins said. Beyond that, I hope the audience appreciates our orchestra and the gift that they give to the community when they perform. Thats a special thing for any community to have.

Currently, the orchestra has a strong core of dedicated players, Perkins said, who are willing to dive in and work hard on the most challenging and rewarding repertoire.

They are open-minded and responsive to new ideas and challenges, so Id like to build on that and help the orchestra continue to grow artistically, he said. I want to do all that I can to make the Waukegan area aware of their emphasis on their orchestra. Waukegan is a growing and diverse area, with substantial African-American and Spanish-speaking communities, and I want everyone to know that this orchestra is for them, as participants or as concertgoers.

Waukegan Symphony Orchestras Dance! Concert

Where: Waukegan High Schools Trapp Auditorium, 2325 Brookside Ave.

Tickets: $10-$15; children 18 and under free

Jen Banowetz is a freelance reporter for the News-Sun.

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