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14 June 2007
Music at McClellan Ends Year with Familiar Pieces

By Shawn Ryan
Star Entertainment Editor

Reprinted here in its entirety.

In its final show of the Music at McClellan season, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra will play several noted classical pieces Saturday night, each containing music that may be familiar. Following is a list of the pieces and some history — both social and musical — about them:

Aaron Copland. “An Outdoor Overture.”

In the late 1930s, Alexander Richter, director of music for the High School of Music and Art in New York, created a program titled “American Music for American Youth.” He wanted composers write new music for teenage musicians. American composer Aaron Copland joined the program and wrote “An Outdoor Overture” for it. Featuring an extended trumpet solo in the beginning, the overture proceeds into a march, segues into a flowing string-based melody then into a second march and, at the end, all three themes are combined.

Ferde Grofe. Grand Canyon Suite. “Sunset” & “On the Trail.”

Grand Canyon Suite was composed by Ferde Grofe between 1929 and 1931 after he was inspired by a trip to the Grand Canyon. The suite's five movements are: “Sunrise,” “Painted Desert,” “On the Trail,” Sunset” and “Cloudburst.” “On the Trail” is the most famous movement with its clip-clop pace meant to sound like a donkey going down the Canyon's trails. “Sunset” evokes the colors of the sky as well as the shadows in the Canyon itself.

John Williams. “The Cowboys Overture.”

Written by John Williams, who also wrote the music for Star Wars and Jaws, this piece comes from the 1972 John Wayne film The Cowboys. Although the overture has its share of familiar Western themes, you can hear hints of what Williams would do five years later in Star Wars.

Georges Bizet. Carmen Suite. “Prelude” and “Aragonaise,” “Intermezzo,” “Seguedille,” “Les Dragons d'Alcala,” “Les Toréadors,” “Habanera,” “Danse boheme.”

Called immoral and superficial upon its first production in 1875, Carmen is now one of the world's most-famous operas. Although French, Bizet used Spanish music and themes in Carmen, including flamenco music and folk songs of the gypsies. Carmen, the man-eating gypsy, has two themes in the suite. One, called the Carmen Fate motif and often heard on strings, comes directly after the “Prelude” and is visited again at the end of the opera. The second, a soaring and tragic theme, is the musical interpretation of Carmen's power over men and the doom her love brings.

Pyotr Tchaikovsky. “1812 Overture.”

The 16 cannon shots heard in this famous piece are actually written into the score. Tchaikovsky wrote the “1812 Overture” (complete title: Festival Overture “The Year 1812”) to commemorate Russia's repulsion of the French invasion that same year. It starts with the hymn, “God Preserve Thy People,” and then journeys through pieces that are gentle and pastoral, representing the beauty of Russia and its people, as well as tough and militaristic, representing the invasion. The cannon shots occur during a piece based on “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem of France, to represent Russia's defiance, and also come during the “God Save the Tsar” anthem at the end.

Classics Under the Stars

What: Classics Under the Stars.
When: 8 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Longleaf Park, McClellan.
How much: $20 advance, $25 at gate, $5 children ages 4-12, free children under 3.
Contact: 310-0852.

About Shawn Ryan

Shawn Ryan is the travel editor and entertainment editor for The Star.

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