Jeff Faragher

Jeff Faragher

Symphony at the head of the classics

Inaugural Symphony of the Kootenays concert features heavyweight works from the likes of Sibelius and Dvorak

The Symphony of the Kootenays launched its new season with a dynamic concert at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook, Saturday, Oct. 25. Among the many notable aspects of the concert was the fact that it was the largest ever gathering of musicians the Symphony had ever featured — 49, including Artistic and Music Direct Jeff Faragher.

The theme of the concert was “From Old Worlds To New,” and featured a trio of powerful classical works that drew on folk-music traditions.

First on the bill was the symphonic poem “Finlandia (Opus 26), composed by Jean Sibelius in 1899 as a covert protest against increasing censorship in Finland from the Russian Empire, and the composer’s most famous composition. The piece featured the entire orchestra.

Following “Finlandia,” the Symphony’s string section took the stage as a chamber orchestra, to play the wonderful Holberg Suite by Norwegian Edvard Grieg, a suite of five movements based on 18th century dance forms.

After the intermission, the entire orchestra performed Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”). This powerful work, the composer’s most famous, featured themes derived from Native American and African-American music the composer heard during a trip to America.

Close to 400 attended the season’s inaugural concert. The Symphony’s next performance takes place Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook. “A Celtic Christmas” will feature the Symphony of the Kootenays accompanying Celtic harpist and singer Keri Lynn Zwicker, who’s work has been arranged for symphonic performance specifically for this performance.

2014/15 is the Symphony’s second season since it’s returned from a year’s hiatus under Faragher’s baton. One disappointment for the organization this year is the absence of concerts in other Kootenay communities such as Nelson and Invermere. Symphony President Ian Adams says this is due to scheduling conflicts in these communities and funding issues, and that the Symphony’s Board of Directors is looking at ways to increase performances around the region.

Among other highlights of the evening, Adams noted “the French Horn section was as good as I’ve heard the Symphony of the Kootenays. And the strings brought Holberg Suite to life. Jeff Faragher brought out the best in all of them. In particular, the ‘fiddling competition’ between violinist Wendy Herbison and violist Graham Tagg was so lively. Anne Scott’s solo cello parts were amazing, and when joined by the rest of the cellos the passages were beautiful.”

Adams also noted the solo woodwind passages throughout the Dvorak symphony, and the excellence of the double bass section — “three people who rarely get much recognition, I’m always amazed at the intensity of the sound three instruments can produce.”