Concert Archives: Creston’s Marimba Concertino

On Feb. 24, 2001, marimba soloist Gifford Howarth—at the time a percussion instructor at Penn State and at Nazareth College, more recently a professor at Bloomsburg University, and all along the nephew of SASO timpanist Harold Howarth—joined then-music director Warren Cohen and the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra in the marimba concertino by prominent American composer Paul Creston (whose son has been know to attend SASO concerts, even when his father’s music is not on the program). Of the work, Tim Secomb writes:

Paul Creston was born in New York to an immigrant family (his original name was Giuseppe Guttoveggio). Without formal training in composition, he embarked on a career as composer in his mid-twenties. Although carefully organized, his works convey an impression of exuberance and spontaneity. They often use complex rhythms, such as phrases of irregular length imposed on a regular underlying meter. Creston wrote several concert pieces featuring unconventional solo instruments, including the saxophone, the accordion and the trombone. The Concertino for Marimba was the first major work written for marimba and orchestra. The first performance was given in 1940, by the 30-member all-female “Orchestrette Classique” in New York City. The two fast movements combine Creston’s characteristic rhythmic style with influences of early ragtime music. In the slow movement, the soloist rapidly strikes notes with four mallets to produce the effect of sustained chords.

The first movement is marked “Vigorous.”


The second movement is designated as “Calm.”

The finale is declared “Lively.”

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SASO’s Story

Adam Boyles was the music director for three seasons, bringing bountiful youthful energy and a passion to serve the music. Then the Tucson native moved East to brave the snow and conduct the orchestra at MIT in Boston.
Early audiences had to be loyal followers of this itinerant orchestra, which performed all over the city, frequently in churches. In the 1980s SASO rented the Temple of Music and Art for a concert. The City of Tucson condemned the building the morning of the dress rehearsal and the concert was canceled.
The most colorful performance was a Halloween concert in Nogales—a ghoulish event where the conductor was a clown and all the musicians were in costume.
Composer, pianist and conductor Warren Cohen served as music director for eight seasons, routinely commuting from his home in Phoenix, but one year all the way from Hawaii. His wife, coloratura Carolyn Whitacre, was a favorite soloist.
Our most famous alumnus is Rico Saccani, associate conductor of SASO our inaugural year and piano soloist for the second concert. He later conducted opera companies and orchestras around the world and was music director of the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra from 1985 to 2005.
Brazilian-born Linus Lerner, in his first year as music director, challenged the orchestra to learn his native Latin rhythms by playing Villa-Lobos. This proved surprisingly hard to do. We finally got it, but not until the week of the concert.
The largest event SASO has produced was Berlioz Te Deum, presented at the Tucson Community Center Music Hall with the Tucson Civic Orchestra, Tucson Masterworks Chorale, Tucson Arizona Boys Chorus and Pima College Singers.
SaddleBrooke is home to many of our loyal donors and the place where we’ve held our gala celebrations—first a black-tie dinner with music from "Phantom of the Opera" and later our annual StarStruck Gala evenings from 2008 through 2013.
The visionary founders of SASO were Barbara and Bill Chinworth, Scott Bracher and Janet Lombard. Barbara has played with SASO through its entire history, originally in the horn section, now on bass.
In December 1995 SASO was the first to present a concert at SaddleBrooke. This was the brainstorm of concertmaster Sam Kreiling. The concert sold out, as did a four-concert series the following year. SASO has performed there ever since.
The first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
One spring SASO proved it has animal attraction. When it played at the Reid Park Zoo, some of the critters sang along with the music
Alan Schultz became music director in Year 2 and continued leading SASO for 15 seasons. He frequently conducted from the keyboard—organ or harpsichord. He also composed several works premiered by SASO.
Turkish maestro Orhan Salliel, after guest-conducting SASO in the fall of 2012, wrote to us, "The time in Tucson I shared with you in SASO for me was so special. I felt the real love of music from the bottom of everyone's hearts. It was something I do not feel often—never, ever in the professional world anymore. Please keep it, save it, try to build everything from this power of love for music."
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