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Kearney symphony exploring opposing sides of classical music in final concert of season

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Alison Gaines

Alison Gaines, director of Kearney Symphony Orchestra, leads the musicians through a rehearsal. The orchestra will explore both sides of piety with “Saints & Sinners,” a concert of religious music contrasted with a wild dance pieces from the opera “Samson and Delilah.” 

KEARNEY — Classical music evokes strong emotions, both from the side of reverence and from the side of

Kearney Symphony Orchestra explores those emotions with a program called “Saints & Sinners,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Merryman Performing Arts Center. Tickets for the show are $13.

“So much of the earliest written music, in fact, pretty much all of it, was commissioned from the church,” said Alison Gaines, director of the orchestra. “For a long time, that was the only place where people could get an education. If you were selected to be a singer in a church choir, you might go to the church school and get an education. That’s how Hayden got his education.”

Joseph Hayden (1732-1809) developed chamber music, the string quartet and the piano trio. Scholars often refer to him as the “father of the symphony.” He sang in a church choir.

“Part of that was that Hayden learned to read and write,” Gaines said. “He got an education there that his parents’ probably couldn’t have afforded. The earliest written music was all composed for the church.”

As a nod to that side of music, Gaines programmed the Russian Easter Festival Overture by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The piece, first played in 1888, uses two quotations from the Old and New Testaments. The composer write in his autobiography about the piece that he wanted to reproduce “the legendary and heathen side of the holiday, the transition from the gloomy and mysterious evening of Passion Saturday to the unbridled pagan-religious merrymaking on Easter Sunday morning.”

And as an acknowledgment of the current situation, Gaines decided to open the concert with the Ukrainian national anthem.

“Rimsky-Korsakov’s overture is not so much about Russia as it is about themes from the Greek Orthodox church,” Gaines said. “It happens to have the word ‘Russian’ in it.”

The concert also features a performance by the Concerto/Aria winner, Hannah Petersen. The second half of the concert features the UNK combined choirs in pieces by Mozart and Brahms.

To add a little contrast, the orchestra will end the concert with “Danse Bacchanale” from Camille Saint-Saëns’ opera, “Samson and Delilah,” written in 1877.

“This does have sort of a biblical connection,” Gaines said. “But the bacchanal is where they have this wild party. It ends enormously.”

This final concert of the 2021-22 season for Kearney Symphony Orchestra marks the end of a hopeful year for Gaines.

“It was very ‘up in the air’ whether we were going to be able to finish the season, whether we would be able to have the choirs as we hoped,” she said. “It’s all a pleasant surprise that we can do this concert.”


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