During his remarks to the school children of Hopkins County Friday afternoon, Maestro Douglas Bakenhus said that the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) could “open a magical window into our dreams.”
As Bakenhus explained the many nuances of the Overture of a Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Northeast Texas Symphony Orchestra’s annual Children’s Concert, sponsored by the Sulphur Springs Symphony League, he was careful to speak the children’s language.
“This piece is full of musical themes,” the conductor explained. “There are fast fairies, donkeys and a royal wedding represented here.”
In addition to the Mendelssohn, the orchestra performed selections from Vivaldi, Handel and a special number by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), featuring Dr. Andrej Kurti on the violin.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Dr. Kurti said in endearing broken English. “I remember going to hear classical music with my mom in Serbia. It’s important for children to hear this music. It’s gift to me to be able to play for students. Kids are future.”
During a brief discussion with Bakenhus prior to his performance, Kurti spoke about the importance of Russian-born Tchaikovsky’s music in his life.
“I started playing violin when I was seven years old,” the virtuoso said. “I lived seven years in Moscow, so it [the music] means to me a lot.”
The orchestra opened with Spring from the famous Four Seasons concertos for violin by Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741). Playing along with the grown-ups were Sulphur Springs High School orchestra students and their teacher Rob Flickinger, who couldn’t have been more proud.
“Playing with them on this stage was absolutely fabulous,” Flickinger said. “They’re wonderful kids and they’ve come so far this year.”
Always mindful of his audience, Bakenhus led the orchestra in an educational piece called Playing with Style by contemporary American composer Russell Peck. The composition highlighted examples of how a conductor can make the orchestra go fast or slow, play loud or soft, or play short or long.
“It’s why we practice,” the conductor explained. “We practice so we can be as perfect as possible.”
The conductor used a personal microphone as he conducted the Peck piece, so he could explain what he was doing as the number progressed. During a section of the music where the orchestra was playing the same measures over and over, Bakenhus stepped off the conductor’s podium and broke out in a dance – of sorts. The kids cracked up at seeing his attempt to disco, and the maestro seemed to be having the time of his life.
In addition to the annual Children’s Concert, The Sulphur Springs Symphony League also sposors the Independence Day Concert in July.
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