Romantic Stories in Music with the Humboldt Symphony

A queen’s romance, a gypsy’s passion, a show of force, and the legend of a cathedral emerging from the sea are all evoked in music performed by the Humboldt Symphony in an afternoon concert on Sunday April 3.

British composer Benjamin Britten wrote the opera “Gloriana” about the romance of Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex for the coronation of her namesake, the current Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Humboldt Symphony plays its most familiar instrumental section, “Courtly Dances.”

French composer Camille Saint-Saens commemorated his visit to Algeria with a suite that includes a military march, in honor of the French garrison there. “As with most military marches of the 19th century, the trumpet is treated as an heroic fanfare instrument, so the trumpets have a prominent role in this one, especially at the end,” conductor Paul Cummings noted.

In the 20th century another French composer, Claude Debussy, became fascinated with the legend of a lost city off the French coast, and its submerged cathedral that was said to rise above sea level once a century. Its bells would ring before it slipped back into the ocean depths.

Debussy’s piece “The Engulfed Cathedral” is a popular piano prelude, but the orchestral version, Cummings said, is hardly ever performed. Humboldt Symphony provides the rare opportunity to hear the fullness of its mysterious beginning and especially its ecstatic middle, before the sea covers the cathedral again.

The orchestra also plays instrumental highlights from a suite Bizet based on his opera about the tempestuous gypsy Carmen—a preview of a fuller treatment ahead in the Humboldt Symphony’s May concert.

The Humboldt Symphony performs for one afternoon only at the earlier time of 2 p.m. on Sunday April 3 in Fulkerson Recital Hall on the HSU campus. Tickets are $8, $5 seniors and children, free to HSU students with ID, from HSU Box Office (826-3928) or at the door. More information: Directed by Paul Cummings, produced by HSU Music department.