USAO Students to Help Celebrate Bernstein Feb. 23-28
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A week-long celebration of Leonard Bernstein will feature the students of USAO with performances by USAO music groups, individual music majors and a performance of West Side Story featuring students from several majors.
The festival examining the music and life of educator, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein is scheduled at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma Feb. 23-28.
More than five months after the 90th anniversary of his birth, the worldwide celebration of Bernstein continues across the United States and around the world. Concerts, festivals and other events have been held or are scheduled in Germany, Spain, France, Singapore, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and across the United States.
The Bernstein Festival of Music and Ideas at USAO is the fifth event in a series. Also known as “The Five Bs,” the weeklong series of festivals began in fall 2007 as a means to explore the music of five genius composers whose lives cover 350 years of history and whose last names coincidentally begin with the letter “B.” So far these have included Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Bela Bartok.
The music of Bernstein will be featured for five nights that include two concerts, a showing of the classic movie On The Waterfront, and two nights of West Side Story. Each event is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in different locations on campus and is free and open to the public.
Special guest conductor and world-renowned violinist Yuval Waldman will return as guest performer and director of the festival. Local, national, and campus musicians and singers will join Waldman for Bernstein performances throughout the week.
More information about the event is available online at www.TheFiveBs.com. The Festival of Music and Ideas is presented with support from the Kirkpatrick Foundation and the USAO Foundation.
For the first concert in the Bernstein Festival, on Monday, Feb. 23, Waldman will be joined by Russian pianist Tatiana Kuleshova and other artists for a concert entitled “Bernstein and Before.” The concert will be held in the USAO Student Center Ballroom. Examining the impact of earlier composers on Bernstein, the USAO Vocal Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Dr. Ken Bohannon, will perform I’ve Got Rhythm by George Gershwin. Other guests include the USAO Key Players, under the direction of Dr. Dan Hanson, Colette Schaffer and Stephanie Lemoine.
Waldman will also share information about Bernstein in the 20th century. Other composers featured will include George Gershwin, Charles Ives, Aaron Copland, and Roy Harris.
On Feb. 24, in the Te Ata Memorial Auditorium, the festival continues with a special showing of On The Waterfront. The 1954 movie features the music of Bernstein and stars Marlon Brando. The film won eight Academy Awards and is listed on dozens of all-time important film lists, including those by the Vatican and the U.S. Library of Congress. Bernstein received an Academy Award nomination for his musical score.
The festival continues on Feb. 26 in the USAO Student Center Ballroom with the program “Bernstein and After.” The program will examine the music and composers that were directly influenced by Bernstein. Featured guests include the USAO Concert Choir, under the direction of Dr. Jan Hanson, and soloist Elizabeth Sellers.
Also in this program are Dr. Ken Bohannon and the USAO Concert Band, under the direction of Dr. Dan Hanson. Other featured composers include Stephen Soundheim, William Bolcomb and Dick Hyman. An original composition by Dr. Stephen Weber, associate professor of music, is also scheduled. Dr. John Miller, professor of history, will present the Ideas portion of the program Thursday night.
The festival comes to a conclusion on Feb. 27-28 with West Side Story in the Davis Hall Theatre. The two performances are a joint venture of the USAO music and drama departments. The production is based on a conception of Jerome Robbins, book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
The production features many well-known songs including Somewhere, Tonight and One Hand, One Heart. West Side Story is considered to be a landmark in the history of the American musical theatre, deviating from traditional musicals with silly songs and happy endings to a more sophisticated dramatic approach.
Bernstein introduced audiences to a realistic portrayal of racial prejudice, gang violence and senseless death. From its premiere to present day, West Side Story still moves audiences with its personal message of tragedy through intolerance. The production is free with general admission seating.
Katie Davis, assistant professor of drama, and Dr. Jan Hanson will direct West Side Story. Hanson, with Rhenada Finch, festival coordinator, serve as pianists. Dr. Dan Hanson serves as percussionist.
Russian-born Israeli violinist Yuval Waldman, who serves as both performer and director for the event, has performed across the globe as a soloist with major orchestras in concerts and on radio and television. In addition to acclaim for his performances of standard repertory, Waldman is well known for his thoughtful and stylish performances and recordings of Baroque music, both as a violinist and as a conductor. He has championed rarely performed 19th century masterpieces and has commissioned and premiered numerous works by contemporary American and Israeli composers.
Some of Waldman’s career highlights include conducting on the Congressional steps in Washington, D.C. in a memorial concert on September 11, 2002, welcoming the millennium in a Benedictine monastery in Rome, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel in Moscow and conducting Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” for Portuguese villagers in Madeira.