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Works of spirit

TCC’s Signature Symphony celebrates American composition

Composer and TU professor Joseph Rivers

On March 17, the Signature Symphony at Tulsa Community College will present “Made in America,” a concert of musical Americana, at the Van Trease Performing Arts Center for Education.

Signature Symphony’s theme for the 2017-2018 season is “From the Heartland: Tulsa Music Connections.” “Made in America” honors this with music by local composer Joseph Rivers, along with songs by renowned Americana artist Aaron Copland, who is also known as the “Dean of American Composers.”

From Copland’s hefty repetoire, the symphony will play “Appalachian Spring,” an orchestral suite that premiered in 1944, and “Old American Songs,” an arrangement of classic American folk songs. Copland’s work is said to capture America’s pioneering spirit and is accessible to the general public. Maybe the most explicit example of his populist sentiments is his famous ballet “Fanfare for the Common Man.”

Rivers called it an honor to share a performance with Copland, whose work influenced his own composition.

“Copland had an ability to make art with a distinctly American sound,” Rivers said. “There is something in his music that is particularly American.”

Comprised of three parts—“Fear,” “Passionate Hope,” and “Rollicking Dance”—Rivers’ Concerto for Oboe and English Horn will also be featured. The piece in its entirety is meant to mimic the mixed feelings of change. Rivers, who teaches numerous film-composition classes at The University of Tulsa, described the difference between composing for film and live performance as a less collaborative, more independent creation process.

“In film composition, the music will be tied to the image,” he said. “Whereas for live performance you’re focusing mainly on the problem of musically capturing a feeling.”   

The concerto will feature Signature Symphony artists Lisa Wagner and Sarah Evans as soloists. Wagner has previously performed the piece on English horn but this time will play the oboe.

“The combination of oboe and English horn as soloists is one that has rarely been used before,” said TCC Media Relations Manager Nicole Burgin. “So [with Copland’s work], you will have a perfect combination of the known and the new!”

As well as working on “Made in America,” Rivers is composing a piece for Holocaust Remembrance Day next January, focused specifically on the massacres at Babi Yar. The work is commissioned by the Signature Symphony.

The Symphony will celebrate its 40th anniversary in the 2018–2019 season.

“The mark of a vivacious, vibrant community is its arts organizations,” Rivers said. “That’s what the Symphony means to Tulsa.” 

Made in America
7:30 p.m., Sat., Mar. 17
Van Trease PACE
10300 E. 81st St.

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