UW Symphony Orchestra’s Final Spring Performance May 2

man conducting musicians
UW Department of Music Professor Michael Griffith will conduct the UW Symphony Orchestra in its final performance of the spring season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2, in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall. (UW Photo)

In composer Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question,” the trumpet intones “The Perennial Question of Existence,” while the flutes hunt for “The Invisible Answer.” With that search, the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra (UWSO) sets off on its Thursday, May 2, concert at 7:30 p.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall.

“Many have asked what happens as we are about to shuffle off this mortal coil,” says Conductor Michael Griffith, UW director of orchestral activities. “Artists of all kinds -- visual, poetic, dramatic and musical -- have explored the issue from their own vantage point.”

The UWSO will show what five composers have set down in this mystery.

Tickets for the UWSO’s final spring concert, “The Mozart Requiem,” are $14 for the public, $10 for senior citizens and $4 for students. A nominal processing fee will be charged for each ticket. To purchase tickets, visit the Performing Arts box office, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at www.tix.com/ticket-sales/uwyo/6984.

Following the Ives piece, baritone Erik Erlandson will join the orchestra for one of the greatest of all German lieder. “Erlkönig” is a poem by Goethe and the music by Schubert.

“In the most dramatic four minutes ever composed, Schubert tells the story, builds the fear and ends the plot,” Griffith says in explaining the work that will be performed. “It’s the perfect example of 19th century romanticism’s fascination with the supernatural.”

Verdi’s “Addio, del passato” from “La Traviata” is in an entirely different mood. Violetta fears that her illness will soon end her life. She looks back wistfully at her loves, and her joys, and begs God to pardon and accept her.

“It is one of the most beautiful scenes in all of opera -- sad, yes, but also incredibly hopeful,” Griffith says. “Soprano Sabina Balsamo will bring her lovely voice to the score.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hospital workers treated gravely ill patients at the risk of their own lives. As hospital shifts ended, nearby residents took to their windows and doorways, cheering, whistling and stomping for these medical heroes, Griffith says.

Composer Valerie Coleman celebrated this daily ritual in “Seven O’Clock Shout.”

“To me, ‘Seven O’Clock Shout’ is a declaration of our survival. It is something that allows us our agency to take back the kindness that is in our hearts and the emotions that cause us such turmoil. … We cheer on the essential workers with a primal and fierce urgency to let them know that we stand with them and each other,” she wrote.

Commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 2020, “Seven O’Clock Shout” will end the first half of the concert.

Most religious institutions offer guidance and hope regarding death and the afterlife. The Roman Catholic requiem has existed for centuries, and the Latin words -- plus Greek -- have been set by composers for all that time.

“Perhaps the most famous is that by Mozart. If you know the film ‘Amadeus,’ you remember that Mozart was himself dying as he composed it,” Griffith says. “Stories surrounding the commission abound, but the truth is simpler: Mozart was asked by an acquaintance and fellow Freemason, Count Franz Graf von Walsegg-Stuppach, after he lost his wife to illness that year.”

He adds that Mozart was essentially a dramatist.

“One cannot approach his requiem without knowing that he was the composer of the final scene of ‘Don Giovanni,’ of the Countess’ aria in ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and of the Queen of the Night’s two arias in ‘The Magic Flute,’” Griffith says.

To help the audience understand the relation between the words and the sound, Griffith has asked Peter Parolin, dean of UW’s Honors College, to act as a narrator for the requiem. Parolin will give a brief translation of each section before the orchestra performs it.

“That way, you will know exactly what is being sung and why Mozart chose that sound for those words as the performance evolves,” Griffith says.

The evening’s soloists are Balsamo and Erlandson, both UW Department of Music voice faculty members; mezzo-soprano Amanda Silva, a graduate vocal performance major; and guest tenor Nathan Snyder. UW’s Collegiate Chorale, Bel Canto, Singing Statesmen and Civic Chorus are being prepared by UW Department of Music faculty members Brian Murray and O’Neil Jones. Alice Chuaqui Baldwin, a visiting assistant professor, will play the organ continuo part.

For more information, email Griffith at symph@uwyo.edu.

Contact Us

Institutional Communications
Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-2929
Email: cbaldwin@uwyo.edu

Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window) Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)