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UW Symphony Presents ‘Appalachian Spring’ Jan. 28

January 25, 2021
symphony playing on stage
University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra Conductor Michael Griffith will lead socially distanced musicians in the spring semester’s first concert. The concert will be offered virtually at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra (UWSO) Conductor Michael Griffith was faced with a dilemma as the spring semester began: what repertoire to perform with a small orchestra that has to be socially distanced onstage.

Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” was his answer. This 20th century classic will highlight the UWSO’s concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 28. The performance will be livestreamed, with no audience present. The free event can be viewed by going to the UW Department of Music’s “Upcoming Performances” webpage at www.uwyo.edu/music/upcoming_performances and scrolling down to “Appalachian Spring.”

“During these stressful days, let’s let music inspire, soothe and distract. We all need that,” Griffith says.

The program was originally scheduled before Thanksgiving, but UW went virtual a week early because of the ongoing pandemic, postponing the concert.

Copland wrote “Appalachian Spring” for the Martha Graham Dance Company, with the premiere in the Library of Congress’ Coolidge Auditorium. As a ballet, “Appalachian Spring” tells the story of a young couple in Appalachia. The music is quintessentially American, Griffith says.

“Appalachian Spring” won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1945. Griffith thinks it is the most important piece of music ever written by an American and one of the greatest 20th century compositions in the entire orchestral repertoire.

The concert will open with the overture to Scott Joplin’s opera “Treemonisha,” followed by Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” After a COVID-19-required 20-minute break, four short pieces will end the program. The orchestra will play a short opera prelude from the early Baroque by Francesca Caccini; Samuel Akpabot’s “Three Nigerian Dances” for strings and timpani; an arrangement of the Chinese folk song “Red Lily Blossom” by Hu Sisi, of Shanghai University; and a medley of Russian tunes called “Postcards from Russia.”

The concert will introduce the orchestra’s newest string members -- UW freshmen and transfer students -- who did not play in the October concert, Griffith says.

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

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