Orchestra of Southern Utah kicks off new season with show of culture

Master composer Tao Wu joined the Orchestra of Southern Utah Thursday night for the season premiere of their winter concert series "Pieces of Peace." Image provided to St. George News by Orchestra of Southern Utah.

CEDAR CITY – Chinese master conductor Maestro Tao Wu joined the Orchestra of Southern Utah Thursday night at the Heritage Center Theater to debut this season’s concert series premiere, “Exploring the World Through Music.”

The show was part of a six-part string of shows centered on the theme “Pieces of Peace” that will continue through April 16, 2015. Each show presents a new perspective on embracing diversity and building a more peaceful world for humanity to share.

OSU Education Director Melissa Leavitt said Wu arrived in Cedar City last Tuesday. In only two short days he connected with the members of both the orchestra and choir, she said, provoking the high-energy performances delivered Thursday night.

“There were weekly practices before he arrived of course,” Leavitt said. “But we only worked with him directly for those two days, and he was so much fun.”

Wu’s passion and childlike enjoyment of the subtle melding of voice, string and wind showed in his delighted smile, and energetic direction. Those following the master’s lead came alive for the audience, exploding in a fervent tornado of pitch and timbre.

Wu’s composition was the final performance in the evening’s promenade of sound, but the steadily-built crescendo was not constructed of OSU members alone. The five preceding ensembles who contributed to the night’s commanding performances brought with them their own flavor of entertainment – each cultivating an instant relationship with the audience through musical exploration, and cultural exhibitionism.

If you think you’re going to one of these shows for some tiny-town orchestra you’ve got another thing coming to you,” said attendee Steve Yates who is the director of Artisans Art Gallery of Cedar City.

The unadulterated expertise that dwells within the Southern Utah region was an awe inspiring concept for him, Yates said, and it never ceased to amaze him when he would encounter such a masterful performance in the tiny town of Cedar City, Utah.

Leavitt said she believed part of the evening’s overwhelming success was due to the surprisingly massive audience drawn in for the OSU season premiere. The house was so packed that tickets were still being sold at the window as the show began, and greeters ran out of programs nearly halfway through admittance.

With the upstairs and the downstairs brimming with patrons, the sparsely vacant seats throughout the theater left little room for late arrivals. Littered with a diverse cross section of the community, a quick glance around the room indicated there was a fair representation of nearly every age range and social status one could consider.

Leavitt said she believed that was, in part, a result of a grant that OSU received allowing them to hand out “Passports” to fourth grade students throughout the Iron County School District in the hopes of creating musical experiences that would cultivate a love of music, and a passion for performing, in potentially-budding musicians. The passport allows its holder to gain free entry to each of the six performances in the concert series; and, at the end of the season, those students who have been to at least five shows earn a reward.

“We actually counted 49 students tonight,” Leavitt said. “If you count at least one parent accompanying each student, that’s about a hundred new faces in our audience.”

OSU’s next performance, “American Composers without Borders,” is scheduled for Nov. 13 at the Heritage Center Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City.

More information about OSU, and this season’s concert series “Pieces of Peace,” is available at www.orchestraofsouthernutah.org.

Event recap

  • What: Orchestra of Southern Utah Winter Concert Series – “Pieces of Peace”
  • When:
    • November 13 | “American Composers Without Borders” | 7:30 p.m.
    • December 14 and 15 | Handel’s “Messiah” | 7:30 p.m. | seating begins at 7 p.m., and all open seats are released at 7:15 p.m. to patrons waiting in standby.
    • February 19 | Roy L. Halversen Young Artist Concert – “Harmonious Ambassadors” | 7:30 p.m.
    • February 21 | Children’s Jubilee – “Building Harmony Around the World” | Lobby activities begin at 1 p.m. Concert begins at 2 p.m. More activities to follow until 5 p.m.
    • April 16 | “In Remembrance of Victory in Europe, 70th Anniversary” | 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Heritage Center Theater, 105 N. 100 East, Cedar City
  • Tickets: Heritage Center Theater box office, or by calling Emily Hepworth (435) 233-8213
  • Cost: $10 for adults, $5 for students | December concerts are free, but a ticket is required

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