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  • Writer's pictureJackson Harmeyer

48. March Music Reviews – Reflections on Five Recent Concerts

Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) is often regarded as Japan’s greatest classical composer.

March was packed full with great music locally. For those who still claim there is nothing to do in Alexandria, I can tell you for about two weeks there it seemed like I was at a different concert every other night – then, of course, there are always the theatre productions, art exhibits, and everything else that happens locally too.

My marathon started Wednesday, March 4 with Japanese pianist Kumi Matsuo’s concert as part of the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Music Series. As the winner of the most recent Louisiana International Piano Competition, Matsuo gave an excellent recital with music composed by well-known greats (Beethoven, Ravel, and Schumann) plus music by Modern giants like Luciano Berio and Toru Takemitsu. All this music sounded great in Matsuo’s hands and with the superb acoustics of the cathedral, plus I had the chance for an interesting conversation about music with Matsuo afterwards.

The following week on Tuesday, March 10, St. James Episcopal Church treated us to another great night of music as part of their concert series. This was an organ recital with James O’Donnell who is no less than the Organist and Master of the Choristers at Westminster Abbey. Besides an opener by J. S. Bach, all the music was from a hundred-year span in French organ; yet, the pieces were quite diverse, summoning different stops and even featuring an uncharacteristically-jazzy piece by the Modernist Olivier Messiaen. The thirty-minute Symphonie-Passion by Marcel Dupré was particularly impressive – especially its thrilling first movement.

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) composed 15 symphonies which document life in Soviet Russia.

Saturday, March 14, the Rapides Symphony Orchestra made its mark with the Tenth Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich. This massive work with its constant tension and combat between opposing musical ideas was exhausting for me as a listener – I can only imagine how the performers felt! They made it though, and gave an excellent performance of this climatic symphony – one which was right up there with the RSO’s performance in November of Brahms’ First.

Three days later on Tuesday, March 17, the Red River Chorale presented “Celebrating Our Celtic Heritage.” This concert highlighted Irish and other Celtic music in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Of all the songs, the militaristic “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye” was my favorite – you probably know the tune as either “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” or “The Ants Go Marching One By One.” The Back Porch Band of Natchitoches who played as the Chorale’s guests made for a nice addition, and I enjoyed hearing the sounds of their cello, flute, guitars, and other instruments.

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) is often regarded as the father of Czech music.

Finally on Thursday, March 19, I crossed the river and visited Louisiana College for their production of The Bartered Bride – a beloved opera by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana. Although I am quite familiar with Smetana’s orchestral and chamber music, I had never heard The Bartered Bride before – nor had I ever been to an opera at Louisiana College. In both cases, I was pleased to discover something new and enjoyable. The music was well sung by the LC students, plus Ty Cedars did a phenomenal job having accepted his important role less than two weeks prior. I have it on good authority that the beautiful Czech dresses were authentic. And, I think the exchange of the traditional dancing bear for LC’s own costumed mascot – the Wildcat – was a big hit with the student audience.

April offers plenty more for local music lovers. Thursday, April 2 is this season’s final installment of Abendmusik Alexandria featuring Paul Christopher and Milovan Paz for a program called Jacques Offenbach, the Cellist. For those who don’t mind the drive, the Shreveport Opera will perform Rossini’s Cinderella on April 11. Then April 15 through 19, we have Guys and Dolls, a visit from the Air Force Band of the West, and Jazz on the River. Stayed tuned to MusicCentral for more on these and other local music offerings!

JSH 15.03.24

About Jackson. Jackson Harmeyer is a music historian and composer. He is a graduate of the Louisiana Scholars’ College – Louisiana’s designated honors college – where he completed an undergraduate thesis entitled “Learning from the Past: The Influence of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the Soviet Composers.” He has followed classical music around the world, attending the BachFest Leipzig in Germany, Colorado’s Aspen Music Festival, and many concerts across Louisiana and Texas. Resident in Alexandria, Jackson works with the Arts Council of Central Louisiana as Series Director of the Abendmusik Alexandria chamber music series. He also writes the program notes for the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. As his day job, Jackson serves as Operations Manager of TicketCentral.

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