June 13, 2008

Festival orchestra to perform in Cape Girardeau

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. --The Southern Illinois Music Festival Orchestra, a musical outreach of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, comes this year to Southeast Missouri State University for the first time ever.

The festival, now in its fourth year, began as a way to bring a wide variety of classical and jazz music, featuring award-winning musicians, to Southern Illinois. Since then, the popularity of the festival inspired Edward Benyas, festival founder and artistic director, to add sites to the festival’s mobile concert list -- even crossing the Mississippi River, this year.

The SEMO part of the Southern Illinois Music Festival begins at 7:30 p.m. on June 25 at the new Cultural Arts Center of the River Campus in Cape Girardeau. The Festival Orchestra takes to the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall with a program that includes Rossini’s “Overture to Semiramide,” Haydn’s “Symphony No. 96 -- Miracle,” and Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy.”

The “Overture to Semiramide” is from Rossini’s two-act opera about a Babylonian queen. It is one of his great overtures, and features lyrical and virtuosic writing for the orchestra’s four horns.

Haydn’s “Miracle” symphony gets its name from a famous incident involving a crashing chandelier that happened during a London concert.

Max Bruch wrote his “Scottish Fantasy” specifically for a violin virtuoso. It has since become a staple of the solo violin repertoire. Benyas describes it as including “some of the most beautiful and lyrical passages of any Romantic-era violin concerto, as well as daunting virtuosic solo passages for the solo violin.” The harp also plays an important role in this work.

David Kim, concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra, widely considered one of the world’s greatest orchestras, and a Carbondale native, returns to the Festival this year as a featured soloist. Kim was a prodigy, playing the violin beginning at age 3. Described as “undoubtedly one of the 100 finest violinists in the world,” he is the only American violinist to win a prize at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Kim is a welcome guest soloist with orchestras throughout the United States and abroad. This will be his first appearance in Cape Girardeau.

Tickets for the Southern Illinois Music Festival offering at the Cultural Arts Center are $15 for general admission and $6 for students of any age. Call 573/651-2265 for tickets. For directions, go to www.semo.edu/rivercampus.

The Festival is the largest of its kind south of Springfield in Illinois, and has plenty to offer to lure southeast Missourians across the river. Highlights include performances of Rossini’s opera “The Barber of Seville” at the Sesser Opera House and at Shryock Auditorium on the SIUC campus; chamber music on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail; soprano soloist Christine Brewer performing “Four Last Songs” by Strauss at Shryock Auditorium and at McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill.; the Festival Orchestra performing a patriotic music concert on the infield at Rent One Park, home to the Frontier League baseball team, the Southern Illinois Miners; and programming for children at more than a dozen different sites.

More information about the entire Southern Illinois Music Festival, including a complete schedule and performer biographies, is at www.SIFest.com. While you’re there, check out the free performances in Cairo, Ill., on June 20 at Halliday Plaza.