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UW Symphony to Perform in Casper Wednesday

October 27, 2017
photos of Michael Griffith and Blake McGee

The University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra will perform a free concert Wednesday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. in Casper College’s Wheeler Concert Hall.

The theme of this year’s UW Symphony Orchestra season is “A Season of Joy.”

"Many people are so discouraged these days," says longtime orchestra Conductor Michael Griffith. "The state is dealing with budget cuts. Political tension is as thick as I can remember. So, I wanted to lead concerts that will bring joy into people's lives. Not silly-happy music, but uplifting music, so people feel good at the end of the evening."

Griffith has selected the major work of Beethoven's Symphony No. 6, the “Pastoral Symphony,” as the concert’s showpiece.

“Beethoven was exhausted after writing his monumental Fifth. He retreated to the country to recover, but kept composing: a working vacation,” Griffith says. “The Sixth is the result, a wonderful work whose opening movement is even titled ‘Joyful feelings on arriving in the country.’ Other movements describe a forest brook, a country dance, a thunderstorm and a shepherd's peaceful feelings after the storm has passed.”

Three shorter works fill the first half. Arturo Márquez's “Danzón No. 2” is a new work with a Mexican-Cuban flavor. Aaron Copland’s jazz-inflected “Clarinet Concerto” was written for big-band clarinetist Benny Goodman. And Johann Strauss's “Fledermaus Overture” opens the evening.

Soloist for the Copland piece is UW Department of Music faculty clarinetist Blake McGee. A native of the West Coast, McGee has performed as a member of the Portland Opera, Vancouver Symphony and Oregon Mozart Players.

He currently is principal clarinet of the Wyoming Symphony Orchestra of Casper. An active chamber musician, McGee performs regularly with the Wyoming Reed Trio, the Wu-McGee Duo and as a member of Lights Along the Shore, a trio specializing in original works and arrangements of eclectic music from around the world. He also tours annually throughout the country as a recitalist and clinician.

Now in his 28th year as the UW Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Griffith’s guest conducting has ranged from New York City’s Times Square to Rio de Janeiro. Closer to home, he has led the Fort Collins Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Denver’s Mercury Ensemble, Powder River Symphony, Opera Fort Collins and more. He was a visiting professor at Finland’s Sibelius Academy and at Shanghai University, is a past president of the Conductors Guild and has won numerous awards, including an ASCAP Adventurous Programming Award.

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