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Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra/Calumet Theatre

KSO heads back to its roots

October 14, 2010
By ZACH KUKKONEN, DMG Features Editor

CALUMET - As the Keweenaw Symphony Orchestra begins its 40th season, it's heading back to its roots.

The KSO will commemorate the occasion by starting the year off with a concert at the Calumet Theatre, the venue where, before the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts opened, the orchestra put on many of its performances. At 7:30 p.m. Saturday, the KSO will take audiences back to the days of Ponchielli, Tchaikovsky and Elgar, who actually composed his "Enigma Variations," which the KSO will conclude with, around the same time the Calumet Theatre opened.

"That's sort of why we picked the last piece," KSO Director Joel Neves said.

The concert will feature composers of Italian, American, Russian and English descent, which Neves also chose as an homage of sorts to the Calumet Theatre.

"It matches well with the Calumet Theatre's cosmopolitan roots and outreach," Neves said. "There's an old-school intimacy in the theatre that modern orchestras don't often have the privilege to play in."

The Elgar piece is an especially interesting closer, as Neves said Elgar composed the piece as a dedication to the individuals closest to him.

"It is a really wonderful collection of movements," Neves said. "Each part matches a person in his close circle - one is dedicated to his wife, his music publisher, even himself and his friend's dog.

"It's pretty interesting to see the autobiographical part of his work."

A version of Jennifer Higdon's "Blue Cathedral" will open the show, as the KSO performs a piece never before played in the Upper Peninsula. The emotions and technique involved with the most-performed modern piece in America particularly piqued Neves' interest.

"It was written by an up and coming composer named Jennifer Higdon, who writes amazingly deep and emotional and technically solid pieces," Neves said. "It's dedicated to her brother, dedicated to his life, and the piece uses the flute, which represents her, and the clarinet, which represents her brother.

"After his death in the piece, the rest of the piece goes into a mystical, ethereal atmosphere. The piece ends with the orchestra shaking Chinese health reflex balls ... and it makes the whole concert hall shake with an ethereal feeling."

Another reason Neves chose "Blue Cathedral" is that it is indicative of where modern composing seems to be heading.

"It's a very deep work, very emotional, but written in a modern style," he said. "It's a non-tonal sort of atmosphere, but very accessible to the public. The audience will enjoy it."

Tickets for Saturday's concert are available at the Calumet Theatre Box Office, which can be reached at 337-1610.

Zach Kukkonen can be reached at



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