Program Notes for SASO’s Oct. 15-16 Concerts

Arturo Marquez

Arturo Marquez

Mexican composer Arturo Márquez was born in Álamos, Sonora. His father and his grandfather were musicians and Márquez was exposed to several musical styles in his childhood, particularly Mexican “salon music,” which strongly influenced his later compositional style. He studied music and composition in Los Angeles, Mexico City and Paris and now lives in Mexico City. His Conga del Fuego Nuevo (Conga of the New Fire) was inspired by the conga, a term that can refer to a tall Afro-Cuban drum, a Cuban music style, or the dance that is associated with conga music. Márquez’s version captures the excitement and infectious rhythmic drive of this music. His Danzón No. 2 is one of eight Danzóns that he has written based on music of Cuba and the Veracruz region of Mexico. It creates excitement through percussive, driving and at times complex rhythms, interspersed with a few more languid moments. In 2007, it was played by the Simon Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela on tour in the USA, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, which increased the popularity of this piece and other music by Márquez.

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

The compositions of American composer and pianist George Gershwin span both popular and classical music. He wrote numerous popular songs that remain as standards of the genre. His classical works, including the Concerto in F, Rhapsody in Blue, An American in Paris and the opera Porgy and Bess, combine classical forms with strong jazz elements, along with influences of the French composers Ravel and Debussy. Gershwin himself wrote the following description of the Concerto in F:

“The first movement employs the Charleston rhythm. It is quick and pulsating, representing the young enthusiastic spirit of American life. It begins with a rhythmic motif given out by the kettle drums…. The principal theme is announced by the bassoon. Later, a second theme is introduced by the piano. The second movement has a poetic, nocturnal atmosphere which has come to be referred to as the American blues, but in a purer form than that in which they are usually treated. The final movement reverts to the style of the first. It is an orgy of rhythms, starting violently and keeping to the same pace throughout.”

William Levi Dawson

William Levi Dawson

A native of Alabama, African-American composer William Levi Dawson studied music in Kansas City, Missouri and in Chicago. He taught in Kansas City public schools, and then as a professor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama from 1931 to 1956, where he developed the Tuskegee Institute Choir into an internationally renowned ensemble. He wrote or arranged a number of spirituals that have been widely performed in the USA by school, college and community choirs. His Negro Folk Symphony received its world premiere to great acclaim in 1934 with Leopold Stokowski conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra. Dawson wrote that “This Symphony is based entirely upon Negro folk-music. … In this composition the composer has employed three themes taken from typical melodies over which he has brooded since childhood, having learned them at his mother’s knee” and that the symphony’s recurrent opening theme was “symbolic of the link uniting Africa and her rich heritage with her descendants in America.”

In 1952, the composer visited seven countries in west Africa to study indigenous music. On his return, he revised the symphony, infusing it with rhythmic elements inspired by what he heard in Africa. This revised version is used for today’s performance. The resulting work is complex and multilayered, combining the melodic content of spirituals, rhythms derived from Africa and a rich array of tone colors, while using the structure of a large-scale neo-Romantic symphony.

—Tim Secomb

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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