Few cities the size of Fargo are lucky enough to be graced with the same amount of fine arts, especially when it comes to music.
With three universities that offer music programs in the area, Fargo-Moorhead attracts a range of skilled musicians in different disciplines. Many of them come together in the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra a few times a year to put on concerts and other events in the community.
The symphony finished its 2014-2015 season on Saturday and Sunday with its “Resurrection” concert. The dates featured one, sole piece of music, Gustav Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2,” better known as the “Resurrection” symphony. With five movements of varying lengths and a runtime of about two hours, this piece is a force to behold.
By the end of the concert, the whole stage at Festival Concert Hall was full with the symphony plus extras, the NDSU Concert Choir, University Chamber Singers and NDSU Statesmen, as well as the F-M Chamber Chorale and vocal soloists Adrienne Danrich and Janine Hawley. The hall was also packed with audience members.
Conductor Christopher Zimmerman did a fabulous job controlling such a large number of performers, but he had a little help. JoAnn Miller conducted the NDSU Concert Choir, Charlette Moe the NDSU University Chamber Singers, Michael Weber the NDSU Statesmen and Michael Culloton the F-M Chamber Chorale.
Before the concert, he compared the Mahler’s symphony to an epic battle in one of the “Lord of the Rings” films. It certainly was not the stereotypical stuffy classical repertoire. With a wide range of moods, tempos and volumes, from complete silence to seat-shaking fortissimos, the groups had the audience captivated.
The piece also featured some interesting and unique effects. There were “cries of pain” as the hundred-some musicians all played their loudest with sound filling the hall. Trumpets sounded from offstage, surrounding the audience like at a cinema. Drums echoed as if played from a distance, breaking in the otherwise silent hall.
Hawley, a mezzo-soprano, was the first guest soloist to take the stage, with soprano Danrich soon after. Both were not merely singers, but actors, feeling the emotion of the music. In the final movement, both soloists, both choirs and the symphony all joined together for a forceful finale that must have required huge skill to balance.
At the end, it was clear the audience was moved. They gave the performers three standing ovations, and at one point it seemed the clapping would never end.
The symphony also announced its schedule for next season, titled “Blockbusters.” The symphony will be starting with “Music on Fire” in September, featuring saxophonist Russell Peterson.