It’s been a busy few weeks – first Young People’s Concert and then two days later I was in Shreveport for La Traviata. This weekend, we have The Nutcracker with Red River Dance Theatre Company, and then the following Thursday, December 4 is already the next Abendmusik – Popular Inspirations with Rapides Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Lin He and guitarist Jay Kacherski. Then, the Rapides Symphony Orchestra and Alexandria Youth Orchestra play holiday concerts back-to-back December 7 & 9.
Young People’s Concert – which I discussed in my last entry – went very well. The student musicians of the Young Artists Chamber Orchestra of Alexandria stunned our audience with their professionalism and musicianship. I particularly enjoyed the last piece on their program Lion City by composer Soon Hee Newbold with its East Asian flavor, and then the student musicians also pulled-out a surprise encore with Hans Zimmer’s music from Pirates of the Caribbean. This was actually a surprise to their parents too – I came to find out they had just started rehearsing the piece that morning, although their interpretation was nothing shabby. Many of these same musicians will be performing again at the Alexandria Youth Orchestra’s December Concert on the 9th, although for that concert they will be playing mostly holiday tunes. Plus, the ensemble’s director John De Chiaro – a talented classical guitarist – will be performing Antonio Vivaldi’s Guitar Concerto in D major on December 7 as part of the Rapides Symphony Orchestra’s concert Holiday Cheer.
La Traviata with the Shreveport Opera also made for quite the evening. From the opening party scene, we very quickly arrived at the familiar drinking song “Libiamo, ne’ lieti calici.” After that there were plenty more familiar numbers, including many arias by protagonist Violetta (sung by soprano Rochelle Bard). What composer Giuseppe Verdi did with his wind instruments was also particularly interesting to me. When I caught-up with bass-baritone Leroy Davis after the show, he said he’d be back for Pirates of Penzance in the spring – maybe we can even convince him to come to Alexandria with the resident artists the following week!
Lots going on, and The Nutcracker is next on the list. Each year Red River Dance Theatre Company stages a production of The Nutcracker ballet by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It’s sort of a holiday tradition, although each year the troupe tweaks and refines their production and makes it just a little bit better than ever before. Certainly everyone knows The Nutcracker. Much of the music is very familiar – take for example the Russian Dance (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2ISRMSIyX8) which plays on countless television commercials, radio ads, and is generally one of the most familiar holiday tunes out there. Anyone who has seen Disney’s Fantasia will know even more of the music – that’s where I was introduced to it – but, a lot of people have either seen or been involved in a production of The Nutcracker too. The other day I overheard one kid try to explain to his school friends the difference between the moves of the Russian Dance and the Spanish Dance – turns-out he’ll be in the production this weekend! That says something very promising about our cultural heritage when it is even engaging to that often unreachable populace – teenage boys.
The Nutcracker is Saturday, November 29 at 7 PM and Sunday, November 30 at 2 PM. Both showings are at the beautiful Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center, so be sure to join Red River Dance Theatre Company for what should be an outstanding production of this holiday classic!
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.