With great pleasure I will take my turn on the podium this Sunday, leading the Bremerton WestSound Symphony in two great works by Antonín Dvořák. The first, Symphony No. 8, was last performed on this stage 22 years ago under the direction of Charles Bontrager. Tineke (my wife) and I were only in our second year with the orchestra at the time, and I was given the opportunity to lead the first rehearsal for that concert in Charles’ absence. Ever since that experience I have hoped for an opportunity to conduct the piece in performance.
Dvořák composed his Symphony No. 8 in 1889 for the occasion of his election to the Prague Academy. In this new work, he wrote in a cheerful and optimistic style, which was a departure from his earlier symphonies. Also new, was the liberal use of Bohemian folk themes in his composition, and musical depictions of nature. The symphony was enthusiastically received by audiences, and was the last one he wrote while still living in Bohemia.
Just a few years later, Dvořák came to the United States to accept the role of director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York after persistent urging by its founder Jeannette Thurber, one of the first patrons of classical music in the US. Thurber also commissioned him to write a cantata to be performed at a celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival, which was to be a setting of the poem "The American Flag" by Joseph Rodman Drake. Dvořák didn’t receive the poem on time, so he used the text of "Te Deum" instead. The cantata wasn’t performed at the celebration after all, but received its premiere nine days later.
"Te Deum" was composed just a year before Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”), and listeners might notice passages that seem to foreshadow Dvořák’s most popular work.
This Sunday’s concert marks our organization’s first performance of "Te Deum" for orchestra and mixed chorus, soprano and baritone. Our own Bremerton Symphony Chorale joins forces with members of the Olympic College Concert Choir, and we will hear Allison Pohl and Barry Johnson as soloists.
In this concert we also welcome the holiday musical offerings of our special guest choirs: the Acapella Soundsations under the direction of Chuck Roegiers, and the West Sound Chorus under the direction of Mike Menefee.
To make our holiday package complete, the Bremerton WestSound Youth Jazz will perform in the foyer before the concert and during intermission, under the direction of Derick Polk.