Free Philharmonic Concert

Nothing invigorates the soul so much as the word "free". If it's free, I'll take just about anything you give me (head cheese would be an exception to this rule). And while this magnificent publication you hold in your hands was also free, alas, most of the events featured inside will cause you to deplete your limited monetary resources in you want to participate. If you want to take your family along, expect to be packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in your lunch for a while. The good folks at Target understand that it's not always easy to financially swing a good time out for families which is why, for the past umpteen years, they have underwritten two free family Philharmonic concerts each season. The next such concert is Sunday, March 14 at 4:30. As the final event of the weekend-long F.A.M.E. festival, you and your family can attend this gala affair at the luxurious Embassy Theater for no extra charge! Now how much would you pay?

Designed to be a "children's" concert, the program is about fifty minutes long (just long enough to keep the attention of a wee one or the impatient adult) and contains four different exciting and energetic pieces, the longest one being about twelve minutes in duration. For this performance, conductor David Borsvold (who wrote a stinging, albeit entertaining and informative, response to one of my articles last year… I hold him no ill will… heh heh heh) will lead not only the members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic but also members of the Fort Wayne Youth Symphony Orchestra. Don't be fooled by the name into thinking that you'll be forced to listen to a room of screechy violins and flat-noted horn players. The Fort Wayne Youth Symphony Orchestra is an 80+ member organization comprised of talented youth from the area who must first pass a rigorous audition, and run the spit valve gauntlet in under twelve seconds, though not at the same time. This youth symphony is maintained with cooperation between the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the IPFW music department, and the Fort Wayne Community schools. Obviously, there is much talent between these three and passing the audition is something to be proud of. Yep, these are the next generation of philharmonic performers! Those skilled enough to make the grade get to sit side by side with the members of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for this performance, sawing, spitting, and smacking away with the professionals.

Speaking of professionals and students, performing at this FREE concert will be professional student Luis Sanchez. Luis, a native or Argentina, is currently a doctoral student in piano performance at Ball State University. He has performed extensively in Argentina, Uruguay, and the United States and his awards include the Ball State Graduate Solo Competition, the National Musicological Research Competition of Mu Phi Epsilon, and the Young Artist Competition Winner (though 26 isn't too young). As you can see, just because it is FREE, expect top-notch performers!

Luis Sanchez will be performing the first movement to the famous Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. For those wondering, Mozart lived in the second half of the 1700s and wrote symphonies well before the age of ten. As a child, he toured Europe extensively as a child prodigy, playing before huge crowds of royalty and the elite. During his lifetime, he composed over two dozen piano concertos and would usually perform these as the solo pianist. Mozart was one of the first to put the piano (then a fairly new instrument) together with an orchestra, thus cementing him as the father of the piano concerto. Mozart was a natural who dashed off tasty, candy drop melodies that stick in your head, slowly driving you over the edge. Expect to be wowed.

Opening the performance, however, will be the "Imperial March" from Star Wars Suite by John Williams. This is Darth Vader's theme that was introduced in The Empire Strikes Back. The music is a powerful picture of this ruthless, wheezing man as he strides throughout his empire, his black cape flowing menacingly behind him.

Also on the list is "The Moldau" by Bedrich Smetana. "Sure," you gloat to yourself. "I've heard of Mozart and I know the Star Wars music, but who's this Smetana clown? Haven't heard of 'em so his music can't be that good!" You sure are a cynical one, aren't you? You haven't heard of him because, well, just because. He was a Bohemian who wrote nationalistic music during the middle of the 1800s. "The Moldau" is perhaps his best know piece. In it, he describes this great river that runs though the country he loves (what we know call the Czech Republic, though that doesn't sound as romantic as Bohemia). Starting with flutes and clarinets portraying two springs, the music soon grows and changes to become the unforgettable theme of the river. And I mean unforgettable. There I am, watching the floating feather sequence of Forrest Gump, and all I can think of is this great river melody and how it fit the mood and meaning of the movie better than whatever schlock the director used. But enough digressions! Smetana, though his music, takes the listener down the river, past a forest hunting party, a country wedding (complete with rustic polka music), then through the night, describing the moonlight as it plays in the woods. The river soon rushes down a set of rapids, flows past an ancient castle, and then disappears into the distance, slowly fading away.

So what's better than free? How about double-free!? If you enjoyed the music on the 11th at the Embassy (or you missed it due to relatives dropping by unexpectedly or alien abduction), you have just one more chance to hear this great music...for free. In an effort to get the community more involved with the philharmonic, education director Anna Graham (find her web site at has been working on an exciting project. On March 17 at 7:00 P.M. at the South Side Auditorium, you will get to see the result of her hard work. Or rather, get to hear it. To bring the genre of classical music to the masses, the members of the philharmonic are leaving the Embassy and performing in what is called a "Neighborhood Concert". The March 17 concert is the very first concert of a very new program, thus if you go, you can tell your grandkids about it.

By working closely with South Side High School, the Fort Wayne Philharmonic has managed to make this more than just a musical performance. Art students created the logo, journalism students helped write articles, and Spanish students will be introducing the pieces in Spanish during the performance. Furthermore, in the week prior to the concert, the above-mentioned Luis Sanchez will be spending time with the Spanish and music students, allowing them to ask questions and to learn first hand from his experiences. And of course, what would a musical performance at South Side be without the South Side High School Orchestra and the South Side High School Chorus? The answer is zip, nada, zilch, and/or nothing!

The concert will open with the hypnotic "The Moldau" by Smetana. Though a tough act to follow, the South Side High School Orchestra will play the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni. If you haven't heard of this guy, you're not alone. He lived from 1863 to 1945 and the one act opera Cavalleria Rusticana is his only well-known composition. After you have been awed and amazed, the South Side High School Chorus will take the stage to further dazzle you with excerpts from Mozart's "Coronation" Mass. Then comes the intermission (insert monkey grinder music here).

Refreshing, wasn't it? Okay, now that we've all visited the facilities, Luis Sanchez will again play the first movement from Mozart's catchy Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, leaving the audience numb with delight. This will be followed by the Estancia Ballet Suite by Ginastera (a fine, fine Argentinian composer (1916 - 1983) whose music retains much national flavor, but you'll have to take my word for it) as played by the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Ending the evening will be the mighty, powerful "Imperial March" from Star Wars Suite by Johnny Williams, which will, of course, stick in your head and slowly drive you mad.

So there you have it. Two... two... two chances to hear great orchestral music by talented musicians for free! Events like these are usually packed so call 744-1700 now to reserve your tickets!

This article first appeared in WhatzUp, March 1999.