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Arts: UMW Philharmonic Orchestra aims for the stars
BY ADELE UPHAUS–CONNER
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
UMW Philharmonic Orchestra conductor Kevin Bartram vividly remembers watching and being moved by astronaut Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon walk.
“It was one of the great moments in history,” Bartram said. “And it was not only his achievement but his humility afterward that touched me and many others. He was a true American hero.”
So when Armstrong passed away this summer, Bartram wanted to do something to honor his trailblazing act. The concept of this Saturday’s October Masterworks program—“Star Gazing”—was born.
“All the pieces in this program are inspiring in one way or another,” Bartram explains. “They’re all groundbreaking and all masterworks.”
The centerpiece of the concert is “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. Written between 1914 and 1916, “The Planets” is a majestic suite of seven movements, each representing a planet of the solar system (Pluto, and Earth isn’t represented).
“The Planets” is scored for a massive orchestra, and it was an ambitious undertaking for the philharmonic.
“A lot of orchestras do select movements from it, but to perform the whole thing takes some doing,” Bartram said. “It’s very technically and emotionally challenging.”
Also on the program is a piece called “Short Ride in a Fast Machine,” by the contemporary Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Adams.
“That’s probably the most rhythmically challenging piece we’ve ever tackled,” said Bartram. “It’s only 4 minutes long, but it’s 4 minutes of sheer terror.”
Audience members will be almost certainly be familiar with another piece on the program, an adaptation of John Williams’ beloved score for the movie “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” which Bartram calls some of the greatest music ever written for film.
Coincidentally, the movie is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
The Philharmonic will be joined for “Star Gazing” by singers from the Chamber Chorale of Fredericksburg and the UMW choirs. Also, Jerry Hubbell, president of the Rappahannock Astronomy Club, will deliver a pre-concert lecture on the planets.
“Jerry is a superior astrophotographer,” Bartram said. “He’ll be showing slides of the planets while we’re playing ‘The Planets,’ and the photography promises to be incredible.”
Bartram added that he had been on the verge of inviting Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, to deliver the pre-concert lecture when he heard of her death. So the program is now dedicated to her memory.
“I keep coming back to thoughts of their groundbreaking achievements in the music we’re playing,” Bartram explained.
“It’s going to be an inspiring evening, and one in which we can honor two great Americans.”
What: UMW Philharmonic Orchestra presents “October Masterworks: Star Gazing”
When: Saturday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m.
Where: Dodd Auditorium, University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg
Cost: Tickets are $10, available at the door
Adele Uphaus–Conner is a Fredericksburg-area writer.