SASO Presents Whitacre, He Zhanhao and Bruckner’s Te Deum April 1–3

Travel through your imagination from a young child’s moonlit bedside to ancient China, then 19th-century Vienna as you enjoy haunting, evocative and powerful music by Eric Whitacre, He Zhanhao and Anton Bruckner.

Join the Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra when it performs Whitacre’s Goodnight Moon, He Zhanhao’s Eternal Regret of Lin’An performed on a traditional Chinese guzheng, and Bruckner’s Te Deum with the SASO Chorus and soloists Christi Amonson, soprano; Kristin Dauphinais, mezzo-soprano; Alejandro Salvia, tenor; and Andrew Stuckey, baritone.

This concert series will be presented three times: April 1 in Green Valley, April 2 in SaddleBrooke and April 3 in Tucson. Music Director Linus Lerner conducts. The program also features violinist Tiffany Chang, winner of the Dorothy Vanek Youth Concerto Competition, playing the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

Written in Vienna, Bruckner’s Te Deum is monumental, described as “the essence of Bruckner distilled into a half-hour work.” The composer himself considered this setting of five psalms to be “the pride of his life.”

Anton Bruckner was born in a village in Austria and studied with his schoolmaster father. He later attended the monastery school of Sankt Florian, where he later taught and served as organist. Bruckner was an odd paradox—a deeply devout man, modest and provincial, yet a bold composer who pushed the boundaries of orchestral music with the adventurous harmonies and the vast scope of his symphonies.

Amonson, long popular with SASO audiences, also is the soloist in Whitacre’s setting for soprano and orchestra of the favorite children’s book Goodnight Moon. Whitacre said he learned to read with this book as a child, and then read it to his own son.  

“Over the past six years I must have read Goodnight Moon to my son a thousand times, maybe more. Somewhere around reading number 500, I began hearing little musical fragments as I read, and over time those fragments began to blossom into a simple, sweet lullaby,” he said on his website. “I knew it was a long shot, but I asked my manager, Claire Long, to contact HarperCollins and see if they would allow the text to be set to music. To my surprise and delight they agreed—the first time they had ever allowed Goodnight Moon to be used in such a way. I composed the piece relatively quickly, setting the text for harp, string orchestra, and my wife, soprano Hila Plitmann. It has become one of my son’s favorite songs. He sings it in his bath and Hila sings it to him before bed nearly every night.”

Like Amonson, soloist Larry Leung has soloed with SASO previously and both artists toured China with the orchestra. He will play the Chinese guzheng in the evocative Chinese concerto The Eternal Regret of Lin’An, which won the Prize of Composition in the 14th Shanghai Spring Music Festival in 1991. The work derives from an ancient tune “The River All Red,” expressing grief and indignation about a 12th-century national hero who was imprisoned and murdered for resisting invaders from the north.

Leung learned to play this challenging instrument through sheer determination though he could barely read musical notation. With the guidance of Master Li Ma, he learned how to play the guzheng with weekly lessons for six months. His passion for the instrument led him to rekindle his Chinese roots and to a decade of joyful performances. He first soloed with SASO in 2011.

Philanthropist, artist and musician Dorothy Vanek is season sponsor, for the ninth consecutive year.

The first performance will be Friday evening, April 1 at 7 p.m. at Valley Presbyterian Church at 2800 S. Camino del Sol in Green Valley. Tickets are $23 in advance or at the door. Order online at or call 308-6226.

The second performance will be Saturday, April 2 at 7:30 p.m. at the DesertView Performing Arts Center, 39900 S. Clubhouse Dr. in SaddleBrooke, north of the town of Catalina. Tickets are $24 in advance or $25 at the door. They can be ordered online at or by calling 825-2818. This concert is sponsored by Bob Donna Langwig and Howard Reeve in memory of Dottie Reeve.

The final performance will be Sunday, April 3 at 3 p.m. at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, 7575 N. Paseo del Norte in northwest Tucson. Individual tickets are $23 for adults and complimentary those age 17 and under. Order online at, call 308-6226 or purchase at the door. This concert is sponsored by Mike & Rena Lude.

Maestro Lerner also serves as music director of the Symphony Orchestra of Rio Grande do Norte and the Gramado In Concert International Music Festival in Brazil. SASO musicians performed at the festival in February. SASO previously toured China twice and performed three times at the Oaxaca Opera Festival in Mexico.

This spring, SASO will record concertos by American composers Amanda Harberg and Max Wolpert, performed by viola virtuoso Brett Deubner. He soloed with SASO in September and at the festival in Brazil. Lerner said Deubner chose to work with SASO based on the quality of the orchestra’s first CD—Celebration!—featuring Tucson composers.

The final concerts of the season will be May 7 and 8 with Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, Barber’s Violin Concerto featuring Australian-born soloist Emily Sun and Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique.

Founded in 1979, SASO presents world premieres, seldom-performed treasures and classical favorites. This orchestra is a vital community resource that unites performers and audiences through a passion for music or more information call 308-6226 or visit

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SASO’s Story

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.
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.
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.
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 first concert was Oct. 28, 1979, conducted by former University of Arizona music professor Henry Johnson, featuring Jonathan Kramer in a Boccherini cello concerto.
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.
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.
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 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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.