San Juan Symphony will conclude season with 'Pride and Passion' program

Music of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky will be featured this weekend

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
  • The symphony will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the Henderson Performing Arts Center on the San Juan College campus.
  • Tickets are available at sanjuansymphony.org/events or at the door.
  • Music director Thomas Heuser is promising a powerful program from start to finish.

FARMINGTON — The San Juan Symphony finally will be back at full size this weekend for a pair of season-ending performances in Farmington and Durango, Colorado, after more than two years of performing its concerts with a reduced number of musicians due to of COVID-19 restrictions.

Music director Thomas Heuser said all 64 musicians will be in the lineup this weekend, something that hasn't happened since the symphony performed late in the winter of 2020, just before the pandemic hit. That means every section — brass, woodwinds, percussion, strings — will be at full strength.

"It's a thrill to have that familiar feeling back at the end of the season," Heuser said, his excitement evident in his voice.

The theme of the season finale is "Pride and Passion," and Heuser promised a powerful program from start to finish.

"It's going to be very high energy, and very accessible to all audiences, no exceptions," he said.

The San Juan Symphony wraps up its season this weekend with performances of the program "Pride and Passion" in Farmington and Durango, Colo.

The concert will begin with a performance of James Stephenson's "Fanfare for Democracy," a short piece that has only been performed once before in New Mexico, Heuser said. The piece was debuted by the U.S. Marine Corps Band during the inauguration ceremony of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

"It's only three minutes, but it gets the concert off to a very energetic start," Heuser said.

The orchestra then will segue into a performance of composer Jeans Sibelius' "Finlandia," which Heuser described as a tone poem that depicts the defiant struggle of the Finnish people against their Russian occupiers at the end of the 19th century.

Thomas Heuser

"The triumph of this music comes through," Heuser said. "It's just a joy — it's joyful music."

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That piece will be followed by an unannounced rendition of the Ukranian national anthem before the symphony takes a break for its first intermission of the season — an event that marks another return to normalcy for the organization, Heuser noted.

When it returns to the stage, the orchestra will perform composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's "Fourth Symphony," a complex but impassioned piece that Heuser counts as one of the highlights of this season.

"It's almost a psychology within itself," he said, describing how the piece offers the listener a connection to the mind of the legendary Russian composer.

"It's very primal," he said. "It begins on a dark note and conveys Tchaikovsky's belief that was crushed by fate."

That mournful tone continues through the second movement, but it concludes on a soaring and joyful final movement that Heuser believes will serve as a fitting finale to the orchestra's season.

"That comes through in the intensity of the music," he said. "I couldn't be more excited to end the season than with Tchaikovsky's 'Fourth.'"

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Despite the fact that many members of the symphony have not performed with the group for quite some time, Heuser said the group is in fine form.

"They're playing the best I've ever heard them," he said. " … Everybody is taking the responsibility of playing in an orchestra more seriously than ever. It has increased their work ethic and commitment more than ever. That level is very admirable right now."

This weekend's concerts will include special recognition for the symphony's longtime general manager Kathy Myrick, who is stepping down after 15 years, and a return to in-person, preconcert talks by Heuser, during which he will visit with audience members about the music 30 minutes before the performances begin.

The symphony will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at the Henderson Performing Arts Center on the San Juan College campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. Tickets are available at sanjuansymphony.org/events or at the door. The Durango performance takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at the Community Concert Hall on the Fort Lewis College campus.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e.