Humboldt Symphony's Exciting Program

Oct 02, 2006

George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," featuring Humboldt favorite, Deborah Clasquin at the piano, plus Beethoven's Fifth Symphony and a symphony by Mozart---it's a combination that seems tailor-made for audience enthusiasm.

That's the program for the Humboldt Symphony Orchestra's first concert of its 81st season, to be performed on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14 at 8 PM in the Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus in Arcata. Tickets are $6 general, $2 students and seniors; free to HSU students with ID.

While acknowledging that these works are among the most exciting and popular in the classical repertoire, Humboldt Symphony conductor Kenneth Ayoob didn't choose them for that reason. "That audiences will relate to this music is important," he said, "but it wasn't my primary consideration in choosing the program."

The Humboldt Symphony Orchestra is comprised of community members (including several advanced high school players) but mostly of "a richer mix of HSU students than it's had in awhile," Ayoob said. As a professor of Music and chair of the HSU Music department, he began his selection process with the question, "What do the students need to know about?"

His first answer was simple: Beethoven.

"There are certain things about the way a Beethoven piece is constructed that students need to learn---he's not like anybody else," Ayoob said. Beethoven's Symphony #5 “"is a work they should know, and they should know it from the inside."

Mozart is similarly indispensable. "In building an orchestra, it's always good to do Mozart. He wrote so much, especially for strings. We’ve got a particularly rich mix in strings this year."

Ayoob chose Mozart's Symphony #31 (known as the "Paris" symphony) partly because it also had good parts for the wind section. "I've got a fairly young wind section," he said, "so I wanted to make sure they got this experience. This is something they can really do."

It also becomes part of celebrating the 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth, which began with the Humboldt Symphony performing a Mozart concerto at their last concert, and the Faculty Artist Series Mozart concert last spring. "It's short for a symphony," Ayoob noted. "Just under 20 minutes, so it's a good opener."

The reason for selecting Gershwin's most famous composition-- and one of the most famous pieces of American music-- was slightly different. "Deborah Clasquin and I had talked about her doing something with the orchestra for awhile," Ayoob said, "and she told me she felt ready now, and she wanted to do 'Rhapsody in Blue'’."

But Ayoob also saw the advantages for the student players. "I thought it would be great," he said, "and also good experience for the orchestra. There are actually parts for saxophones in it, so a lot of our sax players who don't often get the opportunity to play in the orchestra get to play this." Employing as much of the orchestra as possible was also a consideration in choosing Beethoven's Fifth. "It has trombones."

After serving as conductor of the Eureka Symphony, Ayoob is beginning his fourth year conducting the Humboldt Symphony Orchestra. He's hoping the trend of more student participation will continue. "We'd love to see more student players join us."

Tickets for the October 13 and 14 concerts may be purchased at HSU ticket office or at the door. For reservations or information, call 826-3928.