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Monday, December 4, 2006
The American Fork Symphony's Christmas Concert

Here's my brief, selective review of tonight's concert, which I definitely enjoyed. Best of all were the vocal soloists. (Hats off, gentlemen. I said hats off!)

This evening found your humble blogger and his family at American Fork Junior High for the American Fork Symphony's Christmas concert, under the baton of Dr. Terry Hill. It was enjoyable.

Manners and the Audience

The crowd was fairly large, but there were still about 80 empty seats. (So you could have come, after all.) I myself had charge of my two-year-old son during the concert. He and I sat next to the aisle, for easy escape, but he did well, occasionally clapping and saying "Yea" at appropriate times. He has occasionally been evicted from such concerts, but not tonight. He's definitely not too young to start learning concert manners, and a community concert such as this is an excellent place to do it.

Concert manners are not a given among folks older than he, though.  My well-mannered toddler and I did get our exercise. Several times, mostly in the middle of numbers, we had to stand up to let an adult or teenager enter or leave our row. I guess they didn't know that you only leave in the middle of a number if you absolutely must, and you never re-enter the concert hall during a number.

The only thing about the evening that really said "hick" (or "American Fark") was the fact that a couple of adult men in the audience didn't have the good manners to take their hats or caps off indoors. I see that a lot, not just at concerts. Come on, guys. What would your mothers think?

Handel and Soloists

Inserting four pieces from Handel's Messiah definitely makes a concert more challenging for a community orchestra. Handel was my first favorite classical composer, and I've been a fan of that particular oratorio for decades. Back in my undistinguished and almost indistinguishable career as a high school trumpeter, I played the principal trumpet part of the "Hallelujah Chorus" a few times.

I never had a chance to play the deceptively difficult trumpet solo in "The Trumpet Shall Sound" in a performance, but I always wanted to. Had I done so, I probably would have done no better than this evening's soloist, who really didn't sparkle at it -- but I always dreamed of playing it even better. (In the principal trumpet's defense, she was generally excellent this evening.)

All four Handel pieces were arias, two each for tenor Brian Manternach and baritone M. Ryan Taylor. These two were superb; I could have listened to them all evening. I especially enjoyed Manternach's interpretations.

After the Handel, both soloists sang a duet from Taylor's opera The Other Wise Man. Plaudits go to the performers and the composer for that one.

On the Lighter Side

Not all of the other pieces on the program were lighter than the Handel, but most of them were.

I'm not sure it's even possible to have a Christmas concert without some Leroy Anderson. "Sleigh Ride" is the classic (this orchestra played it last year, too, as I recall), but I also enjoyed his "A Christmas Festival."

There was a John Williams piece from Home Alone (another welcome reprise from last year), some music from The Polar Express, "March of the Toys" from Victor Herbert's Babes in Toyland, among others. Overall, the orchestra played quite well, not to mention enthusiastically, as if they are particularly fond of playing Christmas music. The trumpets, whom I picked on earlier in discussing the Handel pieces, did sparkle for most of the rest of the concert, including the occasional fanfare.


In short, it was a good community concert, with some bouts of genuine excellence. Leroy Anderson rocks; so does Handel, in a baroque-verging-toward-classical sort of way. The audience was large, but there would have been a seat for you if you had come.

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