DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) – A sense of adventure spiced Saturday night’s “Classical to Contemporary” concert of Civic Symphony of Green Bay in Walter Theatre in Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College.
It’s a mark of Seong-Kyung Graham’s programming as artistic director and conductor.
As is tradition among America orchestras to start a season (No. 28 in this case), “The Star-Spangled Banner” opened the program.
The “Classical” elements were next.
A popular suite by Georges Bizet was first – a sweet blend of creaminess and serenity along with bright vigor. Imagine a piece of chocolate, only in music.
Also “Classical” was a work by Joseph Hayden from 1769. The orchestra sat this one out because the guest artist was the locally based Griffon String Quartet. It was a bit of an adventure to feature the quartet solely on the orchestra program.
Keen musicianship radiated from the quartet. The work is an abundance of variety stoked into four movements, often like an eager conversation between the instruments with an air of a dance woven in.
Violinist Roy Meyer’s style is animation, with much bobbing and weaving. Viola player Madlen H. Breckbill also commands attention with her action, expressions and eyes. One impressive moment was an instant; the musicians started playing in unison, though headed in four directions.
Along the way, host Paul Oleksy put aside his written notes with improvised thoughts on how live music thrives by the qualities enjoyed in the moment.
The second half of the program, the “Contemporary” part, was fully adventuresome.
Ballroom dance with dash of Spain and a blaze of red is picturesque and invigorating in the first place. Add the flow and spice and scale of a full orchestra, and it’s bolts of viewing and listening vigor.
Artistically disciplined dancers Corin Menchaca and Jonathan Yang commanded attention with their dynamic moves and lifts, complete with constant eye-to-eye contact. Adding to the dramatics and flourishes were the costuming, him in sleek black and her in brilliant red for the body and accented by frills on fringes akin to large flower blossoms.
With the immediacy of dance, the piece felt like today, even though the original “today” was 1885, when Emmanuel Chabrier wrote “Habanera.”
Seong-Kyung Graham’s orchestra was clearly into the music/dance vigor… and the audience was invigorated, too.
And then came a bigger musical splash as part of the “Contemporary” element.
Prolific composer Utar Artun invented (in 2018) a vast musical array that seems driven by adrenaline.
Seong-Kyung Graham’s orchestra played enthusiastically opposite, or in coordination with, the Griffon String Quartet, in a “soloing” role in this gliding, energized, exciting work.
Utar Artun’s imagination especially shows in a movement in which the “classical music” sounds of the quartet instruments shift to the jazz realm as the players individually are called on for short solos as if featured in a jazzy nightclub combo.
The performance closed with a standing ovation and cheers.
Artistic director and conductor: Seong-Kyung Graham
Host: Josh Hernday
+ “The Star-Spangled Banner” by John Stafford Smith orchestrated by Walter Damrosch, with colors presented by American Legion Sullivan-Wallen Post #11, CJ Kellner, Mike Picard, Warren Schultz
+ “L’Arlésienne Suite No. 1” by Georges Bizet
+ “String Quartet in D Minor, Opus 9, No. 4, Hob. III:22” by Joseph Haydn, featuring Griffon String Quartet: Roy Meyer, violin; Peter Miliczky, violin; Madlen H. Breckbill, viola; Sarah Hansen, cello
+ “Habanera” by Emmanuel Chabrier, featuring dancers from Green Bay Ballroom: Jonathan Yang and Corin Menchaca
+ “ ‘Nemeth’ String Quartet Concerto” by Utar Artun, incorporating Griffon String Quartet
Allegro con Puoco
Adagio con Brio
Vivace e Jazzato
+ First violin: Taylor Giorgio, concertmaster; Charlotte Bogda, Chris Williams, Diane Wallace, Anatole Wiering, Natalie Sturicz-Heiges, Brooke LaMonica, Anatole Wiering, Emily Walters, TJ Lutz, Darlene Bentz, Amanda Barnes
+ Second violin: Jennifer Coopman, principal; Claire Kohlmeyer, Lawrence Frye, Dan Bogda, April Baeb, Patricia Wilson, Mary Loney, Hannah Loveless, Mary Beth Williams, Dwight Hayes, Sarah Krienke, John Kolar
+ Viola: Blakeley Menghini, principal; Judy Schmidt-Lehman, Cyndee Giebler, Matt Kirkendall, Barb Akins, Karen Barth, Rebecca Proefrock
+ Cello: Adam Korber, principal; Bill Kasper, James Wagner, Leslie Unger, Mary Ellen Kozak, David Giebler
+ Bass: Lee Klemens, principal; James Wilke, Alexx Stadtlander, Abraham Lyerly, Paul Johnson, Amy Warmenhoven
+ Flute: Rose Van Himbergen, principal; Lynn Liddle-Drewiske, Jean Fontaine
+ Oboe: Shannnon Hawkins, principal; Shawn Limberg
+ English horn: Shahnnon Hawkins
+ Clarinet: Timberly Kazmarek Marbes, principal; Melissa Huber
+ Alto saxophone: Nicklas Waroff
+ Bassoon: Rachel Richards, principal; Beth Shaw
+ Horn: William Klumb, principal; Stephen Taylor, Evan Haas, Theresa Pelkey
+ Trumpet: Dan Marbes, principal; Carisa Lueck, Jamie Waroff, Tyler Newsom
+ Trombone: Bill Burroughs, principal; Brian Sauve, Timothy Kiefer
+ Tuba: Steve Wilda
+ Piano: Lauren Pritzl
+ Percussion: Mindy Popke, principal; Lauren Pritzl, Ben Taylor, Kirsten Duprey, Lucas Gutierrez
+ Piano: Lauren Pritzl
NEXT: “Gridiron Gala with the Symphony,” Nov. 19 at Lambeau Field Atrium.
THE VENUE: The 724-seat Byron L. Walter Theatre features a proscenium stage (flat front). Its walls are textured concrete blocks laid in a wave pattern. The ceiling includes white acoustical clouds. Seat material and carpeting are the traditional theater red. The theater is located in Abbot Pennings Hall of Fine Arts at St. Norbert College in De Pere. It is the larger of two theaters in the building, the core of which was built in 1955. In 1989, the Walter Theatre was renovated to improve the lobby and interior aesthetic, adding seating and improving the acoustics.
THE PERSON: Byron L. Walter (1877-1954) was a businessman. He operated Green Bay Hardware, Inc. until his retirement in 1953. Walter was co-founder of Paper Converting Machine Co. and for a time served as president. After his death, the Byron L. Walter Family Trust was established, and it made possible the theater. The trust continues to make widespread contributions to community projects and institutions.