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BIG SYMPHONY ORCHESTRAS IN SMALL TOWNS

by Tumbleweed Smith

Texas has several small towns with full-fledged symphony orchestras. I live in one of them. The Big Spring Symphony Orchestra has at least four performances a year. I attended the final performance of the season last night. The stage of the acoustically-perfect Municipal Auditorium was filled with about 80 people playing and singing everything from Italian Opera to Over The Rainbow, with some Broadway show tunes in between.

The evening featured two guest soloists: Soprano Renay Peters Joubert and Tenor David Corman. Ms. Joubert is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and has sung in several American and European venues. She is a featured performer on PBS specials. David Corman holds a Masters from Yale and did graduate study at Julliard. He has performed opera on 1500 stages throughout the world and won numerous competitions. He is currently director of vocal studies at Odessa College.

Members of the orchestra are from Big Spring and a 100-mile radius of the city, coming from Lubbock, Midland-Odessa, San Angelo and Abilene. They are sent the music to practice on their own, then come to town on a Friday and have a couple of rehearsals as a unit before their performance on Saturday. To hear them play, you would swear they had been performing together for years.

The musicians are always dressed in formal attire. The audience, though small, is enthusiastic and the orchestra members enjoy coming to Big Spring and playing together. Many of them are teachers with doctorates in music and even though they may have teaching or playing obligations in other cities, they make sure they get to Big Spring for a concert.

The city is fortunate to have a well-qualified conductor. Keith Graumann grew up in Big Spring and chose to return to his hometown after getting a Doctorate in Musical Arts and conducting orchestras and chorales in the southwest. He received a Fulbright scholarship to research Vivaldi in Italy and has studied with such notables as composer Aaron Copland.

This yearís season started with guest conductor Dr. John Giordano leading the orchestra in presenting some of the most recognizable classical music. Guest pianist Sijing Le performed Lizstís Piano Concerto No.1. In February the concert featured cello soloist Jeffrey Lastrappes playing Concerto for Violincello.

Next yearís lineup promises to be interesting. It will feature the music of Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Bach, Beethoven and the cowboy poetry of Waddie Mitchell. Gotta have some real West Texas culture in there somewhere.

I have been fortunate to see and hear some of the finest orchestras in the world, everything from the Berlin Philharmonic to the Boston Pops. I must say the Big Spring Symphony Orchestra measures up nicely.

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