LIMA — On Saturday evening in the Civic Center the Lima Symphony Orchestra gave its season-closing concert, “Lift Every Voice” with great success. Conductor and artistic director, Crafton Beck, chose the less frequently heard “Alexander Nevsky” by Sergei Prokofiev to complement the orchestral standard Symphony No. 3 in C Minor (the “Organ Symphony”) by Camille Saint-Saëns. The result was a thoroughly enjoyable program full of beauty, drama, and musical contrast that sustained the audience's interest from beginning to end and elicited not one but two enthusiastic standing ovations.Prokofiev's “Alexander Nevsky” is a seven-movement work that enlists a large chorus and a vocal soloist to join forces with an expanded orchestra. As Beck expertly explained to the audience, the music was originally composed in 1938 as the score for a patriotic film depicting the defeat of Germanic crusaders by Russian armies in the year 1241. In 1939, Prokofiev extracted a “dramatic cantata” from the film score for concert performance.Throughout the entire performance the orchestra demonstrated meticulous preparation of the score. It responded immediately and sensitively to the very skillful direction of Beck, especially regarding abrupt changes of tempo, accelerandi, and nuances of dynamic balance. The dark, menacing colors that Prokofiev employed, especially in the movement, “Russia under the Mongolian Yoke,” were ably negotiated by the entire orchestra. Especially the very low wind instruments, the tuba, contra-bassoon and bass clarinet played with masterful clarity.Also worthy of note were the offstage passages for trombone with English horn, the subsequent offstage trumpet, the brilliant explosion in the xylophone during preparation for battle, and the beautiful oboe solo that poignantly dialogued with the vocal soloist in the “Field of the Dead” movement. The virtuosic woodwind passages in the final movement, “Alexander's Entry into Pskov,” especially in the flutes, were most impressively executed. As in other full-orchestra film scores such as “Lieutenant Kije,” Prokofiev includes in “Alexander Nevsky” substantial material for the alto saxophone. This was performed expressively with good attention to balance.Prokofiev also included in this score many hauntingly beautiful passages for the strings, for example — the mournful accompaniment of the soloist in the sixth movement. Throughout the entire piece the strings consistently displayed the mature capability of playing with emotion and sensitivity without loss of precision or discipline.Even though they had only limited rehearsal time with the orchestra, the massive 120-voice chorus — half Lima Symphony Chorus and half Bowling Green State University Choral Society — performed with utmost attention to Beck's baton. They sang with exquisite color and balance, and, given that the score calls for both Russian and Latin, gratifyingly effective diction. Except for just a few moments, they refrained from oversinging, a temptation to which almost all such choirs succumb when accompanied by orchestra.Mezzo soprano Tina Bunce sang the poignant vocal part of the sixth movement, “The Field of the Dead,” with pathos that did not intrude upon the quality of her diction, which was clearly understood all the way to the balcony where I was seated. Even though the Civic Center is a large hall, she seemed to work harder than necessary to project. Nonetheless, the overall effect of her performance was evocative and haunting.Saint-Saëns' “Organ Symphony” is one of the most beloved of all orchestral works. The Lima Symphony gave a creditable rendition, which however did not quite match its thorough preparation of the “Alexander Nevsky” score. Beck's insistence throughout the work on brisk tempos elicited a response from the orchestra that was occasionally recalcitrant. Worthy of note was the wonderful rendition of the gorgeous theme in the slow movement by the strings, followed most beautifully by the clarinet, third horn, and trombone. Before the second half began, Beck spoke warm words of praise and thanks to Dick and Norma Riggs, who are departing from the Lima Symphony board after 40 years of active support for the orchestra. Beck's eloquent remarks elicited a warm and extended applause of thanks for the Riggs from performers and audience alike. It was a special moment on a very special evening.Dr. Thomas A. Hunt is chair of the Ohio Northern University Music Department, conducts the ONU Wind Orchestra and teaches applied French horn. He is a member of the ONU Faculty Brass Quintet.
Tara Cutlip, 21 and pregnant with her second child, was shot and killed Saturday in her Bahama Drive home. Loved ones gather in front of Tara's home to remember her and speak out against domestic violence.