Symphony League offers variety and talent in unique courtroom series

BY TERRY MATHEWS | News-Telegram Arts Editor

May 17, 2007 - Mix a classically trained string quartet with an electronic piano and some hot licks from an upright bass and you have the makings of a great evening of entertainment.

Staff Photo by Terry Mathews

The District Courtroom at the Hopkins County Courthouse was alive with the sound of music Monday night, thanks to the Sulphur Springs Symphony League’s chamber music concert. Pictured left to right (front row) are Ute Miller, Carol Higa Harlos and Drew Phelps. Back row: Mark Miller, Steven Harlos and Tom Demers.

The Sulphur Springs Symphony League hosted a chamber concert in the district courtroom of the historic Hopkins County Courthouse Monday night. But this was no ordinary staid and stately show. The program included offerings from the masters, to be sure, but the audience was also treated to some original compositions and an introduction to a new strain of music called “Trinity River Bottom Rambling Breakdown.”

The evening’s musicians have impressive credentials.

Mark Miller is the concert master for the North East Texas Symphony Orchestra and often performs with the Fort Worth Symphony and the Dallas Opera.

Ute Miller is the principal violist for the Dallas Opera and the East Texas Symphony, often performing with the Fort Worth and Dallas symphonies.

Carol Higa Harlos plays cello  with the Fort Worth Symphony.

The Millers and Carol Higa Harlos were featured during the first half of the program. Joining them for the opening number was violinist Tom Demers of the Dallas Symphony. The quartet performed a conventional string quartet piece  by Joseph Haydn.

�Haydn was amazingly prolific,� Mark Miller said. �And his compositions for the string quartet influenced both Mozart and Beethoven.�

The Haydn piece was beautifully romantic, with melodious phrasing, evoking images of a time gone by. It could be the sound track to any Merchant Ivory film. It would also be the perfect backdrop to a Savannah cotillion, then or now.

Demers left the group for the second number, which was in five  movements and was darker and more serious than the Haydn, but equally as beautiful. 

After a brief intermission, Demers, pianist Steven Harlos and Drew Phelps on the upright bass joined the trio for a more modern second set.

Harlos is the staff keyboardist for the Dallas Symphony. Phelps is a band leader and composer and has played with the Dixie Chicks.

The group played compositions by Phelps and Harlos, with Phelps getting in some good licks on the bass. 

Demers then led the group in some Trinity River Bottom Rambling Breakdown tunes, which had the audience tapping their toes and whooping out loud.

Demers delighted the crowd with a new twist on the traditional gospel tune, “In the Garden,” and honored Texas fiddling legend Johnny Gimble with a turn on Gimble’s signature tune, “Fiddlin’ Around.”

If audience response is any indication of their enjoyment level,  this show was a resounding success. There were standing ovations all around. 

Kudos to the Symphony League for bringing programs like this to our neck of the woods. Hopefully, the musicians will find time for a return engagement. Brava!

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