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UW Symphony Orchestra’s ‘Expect the Unexpected’ Season Continues Oct. 27

October 25, 2022
Alison Gaines and David Wharton

What business did a north German composer have, writing a symphony he nicknamed “Italian?” Audience members will discover this at the University of Wyoming Symphony Orchestra’s (UWSO) performance Thursday, Oct. 27.

The second concert of the UWSO’s “Expect the Unexpected” season will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts concert hall.

Alison Gaines, an assistant professor of music and bass at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, will be the guest conductor. Her musical activities as conductor and bassist have taken her to much of the continental U.S. as well as to Italy, Austria, Germany and the Caribbean Islands. She earned her doctorate in conducting from the University of Kansas.

Tickets are $16 for the public, $12 for senior citizens and $6 for students. To purchase tickets, visit the Performing Arts box office, call (307) 766-6666 or go online at

Felix Mendelssohn, the composer in question, was quite the traveler. He took a “grand tour” of Europe in 1829-1830. His travels inspired his music such as his “Scottish Symphony,” “Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage Overture,” “Hebrides Overture” and his Symphony No. 4, “Italian.”

Mendelssohn once described his “Italian Symphony” as being in “blue sky A major” because of the Italian clear skies, a contrast to the frequent clouds of his German home. The first movement is exuberant; the second is slower and solemn; the third is a straightforward minuet and trio; and the finale is inspired by two flying-fast folk dances, the tarantella and the Neapolitan saltarello.

Also on the program is Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia,” composed in 1899. At the time, Finland was an unwilling part of Czarist Russia. The piece’s ominous opening represents the weight of Russian oppression in Finland. The fanfares and driving melodies of the next portion show the spirit and determination of the Finnish people. The ending has now become the Finnish national hymn.

The concert will feature Black composer Florence Price’s “Dances in the Canebrakes,” written for piano in 1953, just before her death. William Grant Still, another distinguished Black composer, orchestrated the movements.

The evening’s soloist will be UW Department of Music Assistant Professor David Wharton, who teaches trumpet. He will perform the aria “Casta Diva” from “Norma,” an opera by Vincenzo Bellini. The aria has two parts: slow and emotional, followed by a fast, brilliant section.

For more information, call Michael Griffith, UWSO music director, at (307) 766-3069 or email

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